When History Meets Health: Lessons from National Native HIV/AIDS Awareness Day

By passmore on May 9, 2011 in Access2Care

In observance of National Native HIV/AIDS Awareness Day, Team Indy met with Doug Poe, Executive Director of American Indian Center of Indiana, to learn more about the impact of HIV on this population.

Although Native Americans make up .2% of the United States population, they constitute one percent of the total percent of people living with HIV. Given the growing importance and prevalence of HIV/AIDS in this community, it is crucial to understand how history, policy, and culture have shaped health outcomes of  Native Americans  and how those factors and will decide their future with disease.

The interactions between this population and the U.S. government over the past 300 years have had repercussions that affect Native American health even today. Displacement of populations, the types of food provided on reservations, and mass sterilization campaigns that occurred in the 1970’s are felt not only in individual health, but also in how modern health care is currently viewed and utilized by Native Americans. A poor understanding of cultural differences by health care workers may also create a barrier to care for this population. Increased understanding about herbal medicine, culturally-sensitive communication, and the complex system of access to and coverage of health care for Native Americans will be crucial if we are to effectively care for those with HIV.

Mr. Poe met all of the team’s questions with his wealth of knowledge about Native American history and culture. Our conversation with Mr. Poe highlighted the importance of historic events on modern issues. In future years, it will be important for AIDS service organizations, health care, and native populations to acknowledge and understand the implications of HIV. With strong and clear connections between these parties, we can bring attention to and control the impact of HIV/AIDS in Native American populations.

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