Time to Spring into National Native American HIV/AIDS Awareness Day!
It’s the spring equinox—a time for change, a time for renewal, and a time to remember the different cycles of life. And for many Indigenous people, this includes living a life with HIV/AIDS, and/or helping to raise awareness, end the stigma and prevent its spread.
March 20 marks the 6th annual National Native American HIV/AIDS Awareness Day, an event started back in 2006 when a number of organizations including the National Native American AIDS Prevention Center spearheaded an effort to raise awareness in our communities and face the reality that HIV exists in Indian Country—and we can all play a role in improving treatment and promoting prevention. The National Congress of American Indians formalized the day in 2007.
Since its inception, communities across Turtle Island have commemorated the day's significance in multiple ways, such as promoting testing and prevention through educational materials.
The campaign's slogan: “A Celebration of Life” encourages recognizing the value of life and realizing that we can actually DO something to reduce the infection rates of HIV/AIDS in our communities. National Native American HIV/AIDS Awareness Day asks people to mobilize, to get involved, and to not let things like stigma or discrimination pass us by without stopping it. We need to debunk myths and share the facts about HIV. For instance, with treatment and medication, people can now lead long, healthy lives with HIV and AIDS.
We’re proud to announce this year that The Native Youth Sexual Health Network is partnering with the National Native American AIDS Prevention Center to create the first National Native American Youth HIV/AIDS Council—which will be the second Indigenous youth council in the world galvanizing to promote HIV/AIDS awareness and prevention. The first is the National Aboriginal Youth Council on HIV/AIDS in Canada. We are currently looking for Native youth ages 18 to 25 all across the United States to join this Youth Council and become a central part of the Indigenous HIV/AIDS prevention movement. Applications will be accepted until April 15, 2012. Apply here.
Today I will also be live on Native America Calling from 1 p.m. to 2 p.m. Eastern Standard Time to talk more about National Native America HIV/AIDS Awareness Day, answer any questions, and bring light to the many ways we as Indigenous peoples continue to stand up for the health and wellbeing of our nations, and the next seven generations to come.
Jessica Danforth is the founder and executive director of the Native Youth Sexual Health Network that works across the United States and Canada in the full spectrum of sexual and reproductive health by and for Indigenous youth.