Teec Nos Pos, Ariz. — Wayne Lansing put his socks and running shoes back on after his weight and height were measured on Thursday morning as part of a body mass index assessment.

Then Lansing waited for the results of the free health screening, which included glucose, cholesterol and blood pressure assessments.

The screening was provided by Northern Navajo Medical Center's Wellness on Wheels, which is part of the medical center's health promotion and disease prevention unit. It was offered at an event observing National Native HIV and AIDS Awareness Day on Thursday at the T'iis N'azbas Community School in Teec Nos Pos, Ariz.

"I found out that I'm pretty healthy," Lansing said after he learned the results of the screening.

Second graders learn about AIDS prevention on Thursday at an event observing National Native HIV and AIDS Awareness Day at T’iis N’azbas
Second graders learn about AIDS prevention on Thursday at an event observing National Native HIV and AIDS Awareness Day at T'iis N'azbas Community School in Teec Nos Pos, Ariz. (Megan Farmer / The Daily Times)

National Native HIV and AIDS Awareness Day is a national effort to encourage American Indians, Alaska Natives and Native Hawaiians to get educated, tested, involved in prevention and treated for HIV and AIDS.

For Lansing, the event provided another opportunity to learn about HIV and AIDS, as well as find out information on other health topics.

"It is very important because it concerns the health of the community as a whole," he said. "We need to be aware, and we need to take care of ourselves."

The first documented case of HIV on the Navajo Nation was in 1987, and, since then, 436 cases have been treated at Navajo Area Indian Health Service facilities, according to the Navajo Area Indian Health Service 2012 annual HIV and AIDS report.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have reported HIV infections affect American Indians and Alaska Natives in ways that are not always apparent because of their small population size. And, when compared to other ethnicities, American Indians and Alaska Natives have poorer survival rates after diagnosis.

Ev Tohdacheeny from the Shiprock service unit of the Navajo Nation HIV Prevention Program was busy on Thursday distributing information at the program's booth.

Tohdacheeny said the event is one way to promote HIV and AIDS awareness and prevention on the reservation, especially among communities that may not have easy access to health care information.

"If the information isn't there, then most people will not think about prevention," she said. "When people have good information they are more likely to make a better choice."

Among the challenges in HIV prevention for American Indians and Alaska Natives communities are poverty and culturally-based stigma, according to the CDC.

Tohdacheeny said stigma is a challenge, but education can help change people's attitudes.

"The most basic message is that it is preventable," she said.

Northern Navajo Medical Center employee Valeria Benally, right, checks the glucose and cholesterol levels of Wayne Lansing on Thursday at an event
Northern Navajo Medical Center employee Valeria Benally, right, checks the glucose and cholesterol levels of Wayne Lansing on Thursday at an event observing National Native HIV and AIDS Awareness Day at T'iis N'azbas Community School in Teec Nos Pos, Ariz. (Megan Farmer /The Daily Times)

Also on Thursday, representatives from various health programs provided information about nutrition, dental care, diabetes, breast cancer screening, mental health, hantavirus and Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever.

Marie Peterson, a Teec Nos Pos resident, heard a radio advertisement about the health fair and came to the event with her sister-in-law.

The women sat on the bleachers and watched students participate in a song and dance.

"I am also elderly, so I am concerned about my health," Peterson said.

As she watched the children, she said she hopes they listen and follow the advice provided.

"These children are precious," Peterson said.

Noel Lyn Smith covers the Navajo Nation for The Daily Times. She can be reached at 505-564-4636 and nsmith@daily-times.com. Follow her on Twitter @nsmithdt on Twitter.