Opinion: Native American women suffer from growing HIV rate

"There was a time when women in Native American cultures were highly revered. They held positions of political, social, military, and spiritual leadership. They held property and managed their communities’ resources. They were responsible for the health and well-being of the family, tribe and community. They were prominent, powerful, and sacred. Their communities valued them as such; more importantly, Native women valued themselves in the same way.

Today, however, Native American communities continue to suffer the long-standing effects of historical trauma associated with the virtual obliteration of their cultures. The current health system, provided by the Indian Health Service, is flawed and underfunded. Because nearly 67% of Native Americans live in urban areas away from home reservations and cannot access IHS services, they are often under-insured or completely uninsured. Exacerbating this problem are the persistent anxiety and mistrust stemming from the often embattled relations between Native nations and the U.S. government. Additionally, some researchers assert that historical influences are direct contributors to the current social and health problems found in American Indian populations. They link high rates of suicide, substance abuse, mental illness, domestic violence and other ills to unresolved grief.

As a result, the sacred value and special roles of Native women have been lost in many tribal communities. Many Native women have a lower status economically, educationally and socially. This degradation impacts every facet of their lives, particularly their health. The shift has put Native women at greater risk for HIV infection.

Statistics are telling."

Get the Story:
Kate Ditewig-Morris, Hannabah Blue and Jamie Folsom: Addressing Historical Trauma: The Struggle of Native American Women Against HIV/ AIDS (The Body 3/16)

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