SHIPROCK — Community members and students attended the Living in Harmony symposium to learn about sexual health and sexual safety on Friday at Diné College’s North Campus here.
Alisa Ellison is program manager for Community Approaches to Reduce Sexually Transmitted Diseases, or CARS, an initiative of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that uses community engagement methods and partnerships to build awareness and prevention of sexually transmitted diseases. transmissible.
As part of the national initiative, CDC awarded a four-year grant to Capacity Builders Inc. to implement a CARS program to reduce and raise awareness of STDs, HIV, and AIDS in communities across the nation Navajo.
Public education is crucial due to the growing number of STD and HIV cases in the Navajo Nation, Ellison said.
The New Mexico Department of Health reported in 2017 that those cases were highest in Shiprock and Gallup, she added.
“It’s on the rise and we’re here to educate the community,” Ellison said.
Since the program began last year, information has been presented in chapter houses, schools and community events, but this was the first symposium, she said.
Friday’s event featured three series of breakout sessions, beginning with the Navajo Wellness Model by staff from the North Navajo Medical Center and staff from the state Department of Health spoke about health and well-being after testing positive for HIV.
Ellison said CARS has worked with entities including the state Department of Health, the Navajo Nation HIV Prevention Program and Planned Parenthood to provide education, contraception and free STD testing.
Mattee Jim is supervisor of HIV prevention programs for First Nations Community Healthsource in Albuquerque.
Staff at the health care provider’s booth handed out contraceptives and talked about resources provided by satellite offices in Farmington and Gallup.
Services offered by First Nations include HIV and Hepatitis C prevention education, testing and counseling.
Jim said it’s important for community members to know about these resources because HIV and STDs exist and education helps break down the stigma around them.
“It happens. I’m thinking specifically of indigenous people because we don’t talk about sex…and the possible consequences of sex,” she said.
Hailey Gilmore, prevention and care liaison coordinator for Southwest Care, said five people were tested for HIV and hepatitis C as of midday Friday.
The tests were free and confidential and performed inside a mobile unit operated by Blue Cross Blue Shield of New Mexico, Gilmore said, adding that there was a waiting list for the service.
“The tests have been popular,” she said.
Noel Lyn Smith covers the Navajo Nation for the Daily Times. She can be reached at 505-564-4636 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.