HIV/AIDS Awareness Day to highlight the risk to American Indians

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HIV and AIDS remains a serious health threat to American Indians in Minnesota, health officials say.

The risk in Minnesota mirrors the national picture.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, native communities currently have the fifth highest rate of new HIV infections in the U.S. when compared to other population groups.

Minnesota Department of Health data shows 232 cases of HIV infection have been reported among American Indians in the state since the beginning of the epidemic and 102 people have died. As of 2012, there were 132 American Indians living with HIV in Minnesota. Officials say more men fall into this category than women.

Read the MDH HIV/AIDS Surveillance Report-2012, which includes data specific for American Indians.

Ed Ehlinger, Minnesota Commissioner of Health, says American Indians have historically experienced higher rates of diseases, including HIV/AIDS.

“HIV/AIDS continues to infect American Indians in the United States, including Minnesota.”

Health officials say many factors contribute to the high risk in the native community.

Among these are disproportionate rates of poverty, discrimination in the delivery of health services, limited access to quality health education, cultural differences and social stigma.

“We know we can lower HIV infection rates by assuring prevention, testing and treatment services are available for communities that are dealing with a number of socioeconomic disadvantages,” said Ehlinger. “One of the first steps is to get connected with some of the culturally specific programs and events in the American Indian community.”

Officials have designated Thursday, March 20 Annual National Native HIV/AIDS Awareness Day.

Free HIV testing will be available Organizers in Minnesota offer free HIV testing and awareness events at the following locations:

-Wednesday, March 19, 3 - 4 p.m., at All Nations Indian Church, 1515 East 23rd Street, Minneapolis -Thursday, March 20, 3 - 6 p.m., at AICHO, 202 West 2nd Street, Duluth. -Thursday, March 20, 10 a.m. - 4:30 p.m., 3808 Nicollet Avenue South, Minneapolis.

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