Alaska American Indians and Alaska natives need more research on how HIV and AIDS affect their communities, and culturally sensitive treatment needs to be created to combat the diseases, officials said at a health conference Wednesday in Anchorage.
More than 1,000 people gathered for the five-day conference on HIV and AIDS for indigenous people in North America.
"HIV/AIDS is rapidly becoming a terrible predator in native communities, and most of these communities are unprepared to protect themselves," said Jack Whitescarver, a keynote speaker and director of the Office of AIDS Research at the National Institutes of Health. "Cases are being reported in even the most remote communities."
Elizabeth Saewyc, an associate professor at the University of British Columbia School of Nursing, said researchers need to study the effectiveness of medication on native peoples.
"Are we sure that strategies used in non-native cultures will be effective?" Saewyc asked. "People won't keep up treatments that don't make sense to them."
"This is where native people can and should take the lead," she said. "Our very survival depends on developing strategies and working together on HIV."