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Letter to Dr. Tom Frieden and Dr. Yvette Roubideaux - Udall, Heinrich, Luján Express Concern With Increase in HIV Cases on Navajo Nation

Letter

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC

U.S. Senators Tom Udall and Martin Heinrich and U.S. Representative Ben Ray Luján wrote a letter today to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Indian Health Services to express their concern with the rapid increase in HIV cases on the Navajo Nation. The New Mexico members were also joined by Representative Ann Kirkpatrick of Arizona.

"We are very concerned about the rapid increase in HIV cases on the Navajo Nation in New Mexico and Arizona recently reported," the members wrote. "The number of Navajo Members newly infected with HIV has risen by over 400% in the past 13 years, when new cases are truly preventable. From 2011-2012, 47 new cases of HIV infection have been diagnosed, an increase of 20 percent from the prior year and the highest number ever recorded among the tribe."

"We know you are particularly sensitive to addressing disease outbreaks among tribal populations with great respect for tribal culture, language, and tradition…and urge you to apply the full resources of your agencies, including technical assistance and culturally appropriate materials and interventions to address and reverse this growing problem."

The report referenced by the members is the 2012 Navajo Area Indian Health Services HIV Annual Report, released in May 2013.

Below is the full text of the letter:

June 14, 2013

Dr. Tom Frieden
Director, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
1600 Clifton Rd
Atlanta, GA 30333

Dr. Yvette Roubideaux
Acting Director, Indian Health Service
The Reyes Building
801 Thompson Avenue
Rockville, MD 20852

Dear Drs. Frieden and Roubideaux,

We are very concerned about the rapid increase in HIV cases on the Navajo Nation in New Mexico and Arizona recently reported in the 2012 Navajo Area Indian Health Services HIV Annual Report, released in May 2013. The number of Navajo Members newly infected with HIV has risen by over 400% in the past 13 years, when new cases are truly preventable. From 2011-2012, 47 new cases of HIV infection have been diagnosed, an increase of 20 percent from the prior year and the highest number ever recorded among the tribe.

We urge you to apply the full resources of your agencies, including technical assistance and culturally appropriate materials and interventions to address and reverse this growing problem. While the rate of infection has slowed among other demographic groups nationwide, incidence is spiking on Navajo Nation. This increase may be due to increased screening and detection, but may also suggest continued transmission and the potential for an epidemic among tribal members. Left untreated and uncontrolled, HIV can have devastating effects upon tribal communities and families, particularly those in isolated areas of the Navajo Nation.

We know you are particularly sensitive to addressing disease outbreaks among tribal populations with great respect for tribal culture, language, and tradition. Please keep our offices updated with the progress of your work.

Sincerely,

Tom Udall Ben Ray Luján
United States Senator United States Representative

Martin Heinrich Ann Kirkpatrick
United States Senator United States Representative


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