Spreading HIV/AIDS prevention tactics to Rez communities
PINON - "It was a lot of work, but we pulled it off," said Bobbi Nez, project coordinator for Navajo AIDs Network (NAN) based in Chinle.
On Aug. 17, several organizations on Navajo collaborated in holding Wrap It Up: Native Youth Summit, a one-day event aimed at informing the youth of Navajo land about HIV/AIDS prevention at the Pinon Community School in Pinon.
Along with presentations on prevention, the event also included HIV and STD testing, presentations on teen pregnancy, healthy eating, school bullying, healthy relationships and domestic violence, and being healthy mentally, emotionally and spiritually. Also highlighting the event was a fashion show with Navajo designer names Glacsy, Nizhoni Way Apparel, and Clifton Begay. Among the hustle and bustle of the events was music from One Bullet Away from Kayenta, JD Halkini of Blue Gap and Billy Crawley traveling from Kayenta.
"We put this event on to show the youth of Navajo that they can be empowered with the knowledge of positive health; they are responsible for their health and wellness," Nez said.
The format that NAN, Navajo HIV Prevention Program, Ama' doo Alchini' Bighan Inc. used to plan this event was hands-on and geared toward attracting the youth to the event. Organizers provided entertainment, education and a powerful message to not only the youth, but to an entire community.
"If you are interested in fashion, playing in a band, or whatever interests you may have, you can do it! [There] are Navajos that are successful in what they aspire, you can do it also," said Marco Arviso, NAN Community Health Educator and Co-owner of Morning Spirit Jewelry of Chinle.
Corwyn Begay, 24, of Kayenta, spoke about his experience in dealing with HIV and how it has impacted his life. He outlined the common misunderstanding of HIV/AIDS and the stigma surrounding it. Begay explained that it is still possible to be healthy and to continue to seek success while dealing with HIV/AIDS.
With the support of his family Begay said he has found strength to publicly talk about his status and his experience in learning the many forms of preventative behavior. Other youth speakers also discussed Meth addiction and families dealing with members that have HIV/AIDS.
"It takes courage and strength for [these individuals] to come here and share with everyone their experience," said Darrell Joe, Navajo Nation HIV program coordinator.
"The Pinon Community School showed enormous support for this project and the community," said Nez. "We would like to thank the staff and students of Pinon Community School. They are examples of citizens on the road towards positive empowerment."
Navajo Aids Network is a two-office operation located in Chinle and Gallup, N.M. Anyone needing more information or assistance from their agency can contact the Chinle office at 928-674-5676 or the Gallup office at 505-863-9929. The Navajo Nation HIV Prevention Program has offices in Shiprock, N.M., Crownpoint, N.M, Tuba, NM, and Dilkon, AZ. They can be reached at 928-871-6665.