Written by Becki, RSEI Educator | Published April 2nd, 2020

National Native HIV AIDS Awareness Day (NNHAAD) is a national campaign celebrated every March 20th. It was founded in 2007 by Indigenous relatives from Turtle Island, the Northern territories, and the Hawaiian Islands. The date is usually on or around Spring equinox because of what that sacred transition represents for Indigenous cultures; rebirth and balance. It was mobilized due to the rising numbers of HIV cases in Indian Country and has been honored every year by different organizations and communities. Each year has a theme, and this year was “Resiliency + Action: Ending the HIV Epidemic in Native Communities.” However, due to COVID-19, the usual festivities that are held in community have either been postponed or canceled. While practicing social distancing, the NNHAAD community has stepped up, using social media to spread awareness around HIV prevention, education and celebration. There will be details about how you can enter the NNHAAD T-shirt giveaway down below. 😊

NNHAAD acknowledges HIV in Indigenous communities and shines light on HIV testing, education, prevention, PrEP, treatment, and access to health care.  There is no reason that an Indigenous relative should be met with shame and stigma around their reproductive and sexual health. Efforts to bring awareness to health care professionals and Indigenous community members in rural and urban areas are being organized by local and national collaborations.

Here in the southwest territories, the Southwest Indigenous Initiative (SWII) is a collective of individuals representing their community and/or organization that is in line with HIV prevention, sex education, and social justice. Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains is proud to have two RSEI members as their Co-Chairs. Representatives from the Albuquerque Area Indian Health Board, First Nations Community Health Source, New Mexico Department of Health, NMPower, and representatives from different tribal communities make up the SWII cohort. Every March, SWII organizes a family-friendly community NNHAAD event with food, entertainment, education, and a Native keynote speaker from the HIV community. Due to COVID-19, we got creative with NNHAAD this year and celebrated by creating an NNHAAD T-shirt and SWAG giveaway. If you are interested in the giveaway, please visit our Facebook or Instagram pages to enter!

On a national level, the National Native HIV Network (NNHN) is a network of HIV specialists, advocates, activists, and medical professionals from all over the nation who are providing input, assistance and guidance to Indian Health Services and other agencies serving Indigenous populations. This group was created in 2017 due to the lack of representation of Indigenous voices and concerns in the larger HIV movement. This network builds capacity and support for smaller community organizing and groups like SWII. They also distribute the progress and news about what’s happening in the Native HIV world on a national and international level.

Representation is important. If Indigenous folks are not represented and able to provide their voice in the research and data, their communities are overlooked when it comes to grant and funding opportunities. NNHAAD creates awareness, representation, and advocacy for reducing exposure and promoting the prevention of new HIV infections within Indigenous populations. NNHAAD is another way of indigenizing and bringing other national campaigns to Indigenous communities, such as U=U, PrEP, and condom distribution. You can find toolkits and resources for your native community here.

Indigenous relatives all over are important. They carry stories, language, medicine, and strength that is indigenous to this land we call the United States. Creating a safer environment for Indigenous Queer, Trans, disabled, young and elder relatives who live with HIV is a priority for the wellbeing of community and reducing stigma. A safer environment means getting tested without judgment, free and accessible HIV tests and treatment, and PrEP accessibility. It also means recognizing the colonial violence that has and is still being inflicted on Indigenous, Black and POC bodies in the so-called United States. NNHAAD will always be intersectional with other social justice movements, so stay tuned for next year and give us a follow!

For more information, please check out the links below!