Quechans holding HIV/AIDS awareness day
The Quechan Tribal HIV/AIDS Awareness Family Day will be held Saturday from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m at the Diabetes Walking Trail.
The event will begin with an opening prayer. Kwatsan runners from the four directions of the compass for protection, American Legion Post 802 color guard's posting of colors, tribal dancers and singers.
There will be a walk for wellness at the Diabetes Walking Trail Park on the Quechan Reservation.
Indian Health Service speakers will be on site, as well as representatives of the Yuma County Health Department, the Imperial County Health Department and Yuma Regional Medical Center.
The event will feature rapid HIV testing, resource booths, children's activities and a free barbecue lunch with a special performance by the musical group Tribal Rock.
"This will be a day when we bring people together to better inform them about HIV/AIDS and how to prevent it," said Christina Allan, HIV prevention coordinator.
"AIDS has become a huge issue for Indians, and my job is to give people the tools and information they need to prevent the disease. We will be offering free HIV testing throughout the day in a private trailer on site.
"The testing will be anonymous and confidential. If someone tests positive, they will be sent to the Phoenix Indian Medical Center, and counselors will be available."
According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, HIV is currently affecting thousands of American Indians, who have the third highest rate of AIDS diagnosis in the United States despite being the smallest population.
The department said that American Indians have the shortest time between AIDS diagnosis and death.
HIV and AIDS diagnoses for American Indians represent less than 1 percent of the cases reported to the Centers for Disease Controls' HIV/AIDS reporting system. But when population size is taken into account, American Indians ranked third in rates of HIV/AIDS diagnosis.
The CDC said that "race and ethnicity are not by themselves risk factors for HIV infection. However, American Indians are likely to face challenges associated with risk for HIV infection, including sexual risk factors, substance abuse and cultural diversity.
"The presence of sexually transmitted disease can increase the chance of contracting or spreading HIV. High rates of Chlamydia trachomatis infection, gonorrhea and syphilis among American Indians suggest that the sexual behaviors that facilitate the spread of HIV are relatively common among American Indians."
The CDC also said that those who use illicit drugs or who abuse alcohol are more likely to engage in risky behaviors, such as unprotected sex.
The results of a 2005 government survey on drug use and health indicates that the rate of current illicit drug use was higher among American Indians.
The CDC said that, to be more effective, HIV/AIDS prevention interventions must be tailored to specific audiences.
"The American Indian and Alaska Native populations make up 562 federally recognized tribes. Because each tribe has its own culture, beliefs, and practices and these tribes may be divided into language groups, it can be challenging to create programs for each group."