Killing Us Quietly: Native Americans and HIV/AIDS

Killing Us Quietly: Native Americans and HIV/AIDS

Killing Us Quietly: Native Americans and HIV/AIDS

Killing Us Quietly: Native Americans and HIV/AIDS

Synopsis

Over the past five centuries, waves of diseases have ravaged and sometimes annihilated Native American communities. The latest of these silent killers is HIV/AIDS. The first book to detail the devastating impact of the disease on Native Americans, Killing Us Quietly fully and minutely examines the epidemic and its social and cultural consequences among three groups in three geographical areas. Through a series of personal narratives, the book also vividly conveys the terrible individual and emotional toll the disease is taking on Native lives. Exploring Native urban, reservation, and rural perspectives, as well as the viewpoints of Native youth, women, gay or bisexual men, this study combines statistics, Native demography and histories, and profiles of Native organizations to provide a broad understanding of HIV/AIDS among Native Americans. The book confronts the unique economic and political circumstances and cultural practices that can encourage the spread of the disease in Native settings. And perhaps most important, it discusses prevention strategies and educational resources. A much-needed overview of a national calamity, Killing Us Quietly is an essential resource for Natives and non-Natives alike.

Excerpt

Several years ago I was funded by the Tri-Ethnic Center for Prevention Research at Colorado State University to examine a Native American health issue. I had chosen AIDS because I was somewhat familiar with the topic. While doing undergraduate work at the University of California, Berkeley, in the late 1970s and early 1980s, I lived in a house with gay men who became my close friends. I met many of their friends and engaged in many conversations with them. As time passed I noticed that several of my roommates' friends were becoming sick and my friends were attending many funerals. They began to talk about AIDS, a little-understood disease at that time, and the importance of safe sex. I felt great sympathy for my friends, who were trying to understand the disease and its implications for their lives, and have never forgotten their individual acts of compassion and activism.

Despite my initial introduction to HIV/AIDS, I entered the research project for the Tri-Ethnic Center with no idea how it would consume my life or how it would drive me, like many of my Native brothers and sisters, to keep learning more. As I began researching, I became scared about the fate of Native people, particularly our youth. Looking back, I remembered my gay friends and their concerns and activism, as well as my own behaviors and the social and economic factors that placed me also at high risk.

Dr. Paul Farmer's AIDS work and research in Haiti and the United States not only had a powerful effect on me but made me fear the impact of AIDS in Native communities. Years ago Farmer predicated that AIDS in Haiti would not stay within the gay population but would spread rapidly from men to women and from city to countryside. This prediction has come true. Much of what he wrote about Haiti's social and economic conditions could be applied to Native communities, and I feared that the same progression would occur in Indian country. This fear led me to a more active role in HIV/AIDS prevention. Soon I was publishing articles, brochures, and monographs on Native Americans and HIV/AIDS.

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