A recent report from the federal Indian Health Service showed an increase in HIV infections on a Navajo reservation in New Mexico. According to the data, 47 people were diagnosed with HIV in 2012, a 20 percent increase since 2011.
Annual HIV report
The report noted that almost 50 percent of the diagnosed patients are men who have sex with men. The number of women infected with HIV in 2012 decreased from 2011, to 13 percent of those diagnosed. Out of the 47 cases, 32 were diagnosed for the first time in 2011.
"The numbers show there is a dangerous rise, and the time to act is now, before it's too late," Jonathan Iralu, M.D., an infectious disease specialist who works at a clinic on the reservation, told The New York Times.
The Times noted that in a small community that stigmatizes sexually transmitted diseases, those at risk tend not to seek medical care for fear of seeing an acquaintance at the clinic.
The report shows that there were three deaths on the reservation in 2012 from AIDS-related causes. The Navajo Area Indian Health Service hopes to continue prevention campaigns in the area, citing plans for Facebook ads targeted at the demographic at risk.
According to the CDC, HIV is an immunodeficiency virus that can later lead to AIDS. It is a disease with no known cure, but with adequate medical treatment, those infected may be able to experience a life expectancy just shy of normal. The disease can often be prevented with the correct use of condoms, something the Indian Health Service is attempting to promote by handing out free condoms at a local bar, though this is not a foolproof method. The only way to avoid the disease altogether is to abstain from having sex. The chances of contracting HIV can be reduced by committing to a monogamous relationship with a partner who is not infected. Routine screenings help to detect the disease early on, slowing its progression to AIDS.