March 20 is National Native HIV/AIDS Awareness Day (NNHAAD), observed on the first day of Spring each year. The theme for 2022 is “Reflection. Celebration. Rejuvenation.” The 2022 NNHAAD poster, designed by Jolene Yazzie (Diné), highlights this year’s theme to reflect the resilience of surviving the COVID-19 pandemic and to begin healing and rejuvenation.
The National Native HIV Network (NNHN), in conjunction with the Indian Health Service (IHS) National HIV/AIDS Program, leads efforts for observing NNHAAD.
This observance recognizes the impact of HIV among Native people (American Indians, Alaska Natives, and Native Hawaiians) and highlights HIV efforts in communities around the country. The awareness day is an opportunity to share information about HIV and its impact in the Native community; provide accessible testing options and HIV counseling; and help decrease the stigma associated with HIV and AIDS.
The updated National HIV/AIDS Strategy (NHAS) designates Native men who have sex with men as one of its priority populations. “Native people’s input is essential in achieving the national goal of ending the HIV epidemic,” says Rick Haverkate, National HIV/HCV Program Consultant for IHS, an agency within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. In addition to their contributions to the NHAS, Haverkate and the IHS began a project to indigenize the NHAS, making it fit better into Native communities, adding additional language to make the NHAS harmonious with the various Native cultures.
NNHAAD is a national effort to encourage Native people throughout the United States and Territorial Areas to get educated, tested, involved in prevention, and treated for HIV.