On Friday, December 1, the global community commemorates World AIDS Day . World AIDS Day is an opportunity for people worldwide to unite in the fight against HIV, to show support for people living with HIV, and to commemorate those who have died from an AIDS-related illness. I encourage all of our IHS staff as well as our tribal and urban partners to make time to recognize this important event.
IHS is committed to working in partnership with Indian Country to deliver high-quality health care to the people we serve and is strongly devoted to our HIV/AIDS program. I absolutely believe this dedication is central to the health and well-being of all American Indian and Alaska Native (AI/AN) people and communities.
While many of our service populations see specialists outside the IHS system, we are working to improve access to special HIV-care training for our IHS clinicians. This will make it possible for our patients to remain in the IHS system and receive their specialty care from the clinicians who know them best.
IHS also wants to ensure that we link people living with HIV to appropriate medical care. Early detection of HIV and early entry into appropriate care is literally a matter of life and death. In what was once only a dream, the development of antiretroviral drugs to treat HIV has turned an almost always fatal infection into a manageable chronic condition.
The CDC reports that HIV diagnosis rates among AI/AN people are lower than other race/ethnicities; however, the data also show that AI/AN are one of only two race/ethnicities with an increase in HIV diagnoses. Similar to other race/ethnicities, 79% of transmission among AI/AN males is through men having sex with men while 73% of transmission among females is from heterosexual contact. Injecting drug use is the second most frequent route of transmission among most race/ethnic groups including AI/AN. However, it’s important to note each community is different, and transmission routes can vary greatly at the local level.
Critical to reducing HIV transmission is a relatively novel intervention called Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis (or PrEP). It is one pill, taken daily by HIV negative people who have sex with an HIV positive partner to prevent HIV infection . When taken as prescribed, PrEP is estimated to be 99% effective at preventing HIV infection. PrEP is only available through a prescription. Talk to your health care provider if you have further questions. You can also find out more on the PrEP locator site.
In addition to PrEP and linking people to care, IHS follows national recommendations for HIV screening. IHS has been screening all prenatal patients for HIV and has made HIV screening for all adults and adolescents an agency priority to improve early detection and linkage to care.
At IHS, we hope you join us to raise awareness and take action and show solidarity with the millions of people living with HIV worldwide. Encourage people to get tested for HIV. The best way to reduce the risk of HIV and sexually transmitted infections includes having both partners tested. Add information about World AIDS Day in your newsletter, bring awareness to the day on social media and use the hashtag #WAD2017. You can also wear a red ribbon to show your support and raise awareness. Learn more about World AIDS Day .