IHS funding proposal could increase HIV/AIDS awareness, treatment in native communities

Noel Lyn Smith
Farmington Daily Times
The Indian Health Service is a division of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

FARMINGTON — Indian Health Service officials announced $25 million has been proposed to help the agency address hepatitis C and HIV/AIDS in Indian Country.

The funding request is part of President Trump's budget proposal for fiscal year 2020. It is also part of the administration's initiative to end the HIV epidemic within 10 years, an approach the president announced in the State of the Union in January.

Rear Admiral Dr. Michael Toedt, chief medical officer for the IHS, and Rick Haverkate, program coordinator for the agency's National HIV/AIDS Program, made the announcement today in a call with reporters.

The plan and proposed amount would provide treatment and case management services to prevent hepatitis C infection and enhance HIV testing and linkages to care, Haverkate said.

"We are excited about the president's 'Ending the HIV Epidemic: A Plan for America' initiative. We are grateful for this opportunity to address HIV in Indian Country," Toedt said.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that from 2012 to 2016, HIV diagnoses increased 34 percent among American Indian and Alaska Natives overall and grew 58 percent among American Indian and Alaska Native gay and bisexual men.

Screening for HIV increased by 63 percent for American Indian and Alaska Natives between ages 13-64 from 2012 to 2016, according to the IHS.

Toedt added the national initiative is a concerted effort among federal health care agencies to target communities that have been most impacted, including 48 at-risk counties and seven states.

"We want to make sure everyone is aware of their infection and receive the treatment they need," he said.

The announcement was made a day before National Native HIV/AIDS Awareness Day.

The day is observed on March 20 and provides an opportunity to increase awareness, advocate for more testing resources, support treatment and care options, and remember those who died from the disease.

Noel Lyn Smith covers the Navajo Nation for The Daily Times. She can be reached at 505-564-4636 or by email at nsmith@daily-times.com.

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