March 20 Marks National Native HIV/AIDS Awareness Day

ALBANY (March 20, 2015) - The New York State Department of Health (DOH) today announced that March 20 will mark the 9th annual observance of the National Native HIV/AIDS Awareness Day. March 20, the first day of spring and the Spring Equinox, was selected nearly a decade ago because it is a time of profound change, new beginnings, birth and renewal for most Native American communities.

"HIV/AIDS represents a very real health threat to Native communities in New York State," said acting New York State Health Commissioner Dr. Howard Zucker. "The Department of Health and the AIDS Institute are committed to the continued fight against this deadly disease and ensuring Native communities have the resources they need."

National Native HIV/AIDS Awareness Day is an opportunity for Native people and others to create a greater awareness of the risks HIV/AIDS poses in Native communities; decrease stigma associated with HIV/AIDS; acknowledge Native Americans who are infected and affected by HIV/AIDS; remember Native Americans who have passed away due to HIV/AIDS; work together to encourage HIV counseling and testing options in Native communities; and seek support for treatment and care options.

"The number of HIV-positive Native American persons living with HIV/AIDS is most likely underestimated, due to self-identification by many Native Americans as 'multiple race' rather than Native American alone," said Director of DOH's AIDS Institute Daniel O'Connell. "Integrating cultural and historical factors into our programming is necessary for successful prevention and treatment in Native communities."

New York State ranks fifth among states with the largest number of Native Americans, and New York City has the largest number of Native Americans living in any US city. According to 2010 U.S. census estimates, there were 221,058 Native American and Alaska Native persons living in New York State, with 50% residing in New York City. DOH provides nearly $650,000 annually to Native organizations for HIV testing, prevention and supportive services in their communities.

Statistics show that Native persons develop AIDS earlier and die sooner after their diagnoses than members of any other ethnic or racial group, suggesting that their diagnoses occur later in the course of infection. According to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the leading risk factor for new HIV infections among adult and adolescent Native Americans is male-to-male sexual contact (75 percent) for men and heterosexual contact (63 percent) for women.

DOH has a toll-free confidential AIDS Hotline (1-800-541-AIDS), where individuals can learn more about HIV and get information about free HIV testing opportunities in their communities. Additionally, the National HIV and STD Testing Resource website at: allows a user to enter a zip code to access local testing sites in that area. Cell phone users can send a text message containing their zip code to "KNOWIT" (566948) and within seconds receive a return text message listing an HIV testing site in that area.

For additional information about HIV/AIDS please visit: