FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. -- The number of HIV cases is higher among the Navajo than any other tribe in the country. In just the last three years the number of new diagnoses has quadrupled in the Four Corners area.
The number of people diagnosed with HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, has spiked for a few reasons.
"We’re having an increase in the diagnosis partly because we’re looking in places we didn’t used to look," said Lisa Neel, analyst for the Indian Health Service HIV/AIDS program. "That is supported by the fact that we are finding people earlier in their infection before they are clearly sick with opportunistic infections."
Jonathan Iralu has been tracking HIV and AIDS on the Navajo Nation for 20 years. He said it used to be that people with HIV contracted it off the reservation. Now Navajos are getting it from other Navajos on the reservation.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has made more funding available for screening and education. But health care practitioners have run into a challenge with traditional Navajo patients who believe if bad outcomes are discussed, you bring them about. So the Indian Health Service came up with this public service announcement in Navajo.
It says: “I know my strength. I know my body. I know my status. HIV Get tested.”
Among American Indians as a whole, one in four who are HIV-positive remain unaware they are infected, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. That’s compared to one in five in the general public. The sooner they are diagnosed the sooner they can treat the virus. The death rate for American Indians with HIV is twice that for whites.