According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), American Indians/Alaska Natives (AI/AN) represent about 1.2% of the general population within the United States and 1% of HIV diagnoses nationally in 2015. However, American Indians/Alaska Natives ranked 5th in the rates of HIV diagnosis with rates lower than Blacks/African Americans, Latinos/Hispanics, Native Hawaiians/Other Pacific Islanders, and individuals reporting multiple ethnicities/races. Rates of HIV diagnoses among American Indians/Alaska Natives were also higher than Asian/Asian Americans and Whites. Within the American Indian/Alaska Native HIV diagnosis in 2015, 73% were of men and 26% were of women. Within the HIV diagnoses of American Indian/Alaska Native men, 79% were of gay and bisexual men. Most of the HIV transmission occuring in American Indian/Alaska Native women were from heterosexual contact. Over a decade from 2005 to 2014, the annual number of HIV diagnoses increased 19% among American Indians/Alaska Natives and 63% among American Indian/Alaska Native gay and bisexual men. 96 American Indians/Alaskas were diagnosed with AIDS in 2015, 59% being men and 41% being women.
HIV/AIDS among Native Americans/Alaska Natives in Los Angeles County
In Los Angeles County, home to the largest urban Native population in the United States, male-to-male sexual contact represents 71% of cumulative adult/adolescent AIDS cases for Native men. According to the 2009 Epidemiologic Profile of HIV/AIDS in Los Angeles County, “5.6 out of every 1,000 Native American/Alaska Natives are living with HIV/AIDS, second only to African Americans; 77% of Native American/Alaska Natives cases were among men, 23% among individuals who shared injection paraphernalia and 20% among women.”
The report goes on to state that “Native Americans/Alaska Native Transgender individuals represent 2.9% of HIV/AIDS cases which are higher in population compared to 1% of all HIV/AIDS cases in Los Angeles County.” The proportion of female American Indian/Alaskan Natives living with AIDS has also shown a high 36% increase. Actual HIV/AIDS statistical numbers may be higher because of significant racial misclassification in HIV/AIDS to other racial identities in reporting.
Most often, high risk sexual behaviors can be associated to historical trauma issues such as substance use, mental health, gender/sexual identity, etc. Historical trauma is the cumulative psychological and emotional wounding in a lifespan and across generations that result from a massive group trauma experience.
Native experience often reflects a loss of culture, loss of language, forced relocation, religious intolerance, poor socioeconomic conditions of reservations and a history of ethnic cleansing. Historical loss, for example, is part of the cognitive world of contemporary Natives and this sense of loss is prevalent. Depression and self-destructive behaviors are often reactions to historical trauma.
Additional HIV/AIDS Resources and Agencies
Comprehensive directory to HIV/AIDS services in Los Angeles County.
- Indigenous HIV AIDS Research Training Program
- Indian Health Service HIV/AIDS Program
- National HIV/AIDS Strategy
- Office of Minority Health
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)
- CDC Division of HIV/AIDS Prevention
- The Body
- Los Angeles LGBT Center Sexual Health Program
- AIDS Healthcare Foundation
- Alliance for Housing and Healing
- AIDS Education for the Deaf
- Being Alive
- Housing Opportunities for People Living with AIDS (HOPWA)
- The Life Group LA
- Los Angeles HIV Law and Policy Project – Intake Phone Line: 310.794.7367
- Men’s Health Foundation
- PAWS/LA Assists low-income pet owners who are seniors or living with HIV/AIDS or other life-threatening illness to keep and care for companion animals
- Project Angel Food Provides home-delivered meals for people living with HIV/AIDS, cancer, and other life-threatening illnesses.