Newsroom > DHHS News Release


March 16, 2009

Marla Augustine, Communications & Legislative Services, (402) 471-4047,


DHHS Promotes National Native American HIV/AIDS Awareness Day

Lincoln - HIV/AIDS is a critical and growing health issue within America’s native population - American Indians, Alaska Natives and Native Hawaiians - according to the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services.

American Indians and Alaska Natives have the third highest rate of AIDS diagnosis in the United States, after blacks and Hispanics/Latinos. HIV/AIDS exists in both urban and rural populations, including on or near tribal lands. However, many Native Americans with HIV are not aware of their status.

Nationally, nearly 25% of the one million Americans with HIV are unaware they are infected. An estimated half of new HIV infections are spread from people who are not aware of their status.

“These statistics, risk factors and missed opportunities for screening indicate a need to change how we discuss HIV, improve how HIV testing is integrated with other health services, and continually improve access to care,” said Dr. Joann Schaefer, Chief Medical Officer and Director of the DHHS Division of Public Health. “Ultimately, we can do our part to reduce the stigma that surrounds HIV/AIDS within our health culture.”

The Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services encourages all Nebraskans to observe the third annual National Native HIV/AIDS Awareness Day on March 20, 2009.

National Native HIV/AIDS Awareness Day also provides the opportunity to thank those dedicated to providing HIV prevention, testing and treatment services in the face of limited resources and competing priorities. Tribes, community organizations and health departments will be holding many events to promote awareness, such as free HIV/AIDS and Hepatitis screening, HIV training sessions, sunrise ceremonies, walks, basketball tournaments and others.

Testing centers are shown on the Red Ribbon Community’s web site (sponsored by Nebraskans living with HIV). For a calendar of events, visit