Quechans Celebrate HIV/ AIDS Awareness Day

The indigenous Quechan people of Yuma, Arizona, celebrated their annual Quechan Tribal HIV/ AIDS Awareness Family Day, as more American Indians are getting infected with the dreaded disease. 

The Department of Health and Human Services in the United States reports that American Indians have the third highest HIV diagnosis rate in the country despite having a small population.  What is more alarming is that American Indians have the shortest time between AIDS diagnosis and death.

Although the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are not associating certain races and ethnicity as risk factors for HIV infection, they say that American Indians are likely to face challenges associated with the risk of HIV infection.  These challenges include sexual risk factors, substance abuse, and cultural diversity.  The CDC also said that those who use illegal drugs or who abuse alcohol are more likely to engage in risky behaviors like unprotected sex.

The Quechan Tribal HIV/ AIDS Awareness Family Day began with an opening prayer, Kwatsan runners from four compass directions for protection, as well as color guards, tribal dancers, and singers.  It was followed by a walk for wellness at a local trail park on the Quechan Reservation, as well as rapid HIV testing, resource booths, children’s activities, and a free barbecue lunch. 

Speakers from the Indian Health Service were also on site, as well as representatives of the Yuma County Health Department, the Imperial County Health Department, and the Yuma Regional Medical Center.

The CDC said that HIV/ AIDS prevention interventions must be tailored to specific audiences to make it more effective, especially among American Indians who consist of 562 federally recognized tribes.  Each tribe has its own culture, beliefs, and practices, and the tribes are also divided into language groups.

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