The National Native HIV Network Hosts Activities to Support Community Engagement, Adapt to COVID-19

Content From: Savannah Gene, M.S., CHES, STD/HIV/AIDS Prevention Program Director, Albuquerque Area Indian Health Board, Elton Naswood, Co-Coordinator, National Native HIV Network, and Kurt Begaye, Co-Coordinator, National Native HIV NetworkPublished: November 18, 20202 min read


National Native HIV Network
Credit: National Native HIV Network

The National Native HIV Network (NNHN) was established in 2016 by the grassroots efforts of several Native individuals in the public health and HIV/AIDS field to increase and organize a national voice and presence in the HIV movement from the American Indian, Alaska Native, and Native Hawaiian communities. The NNHN received funding from the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services’ Minority HIV/AIDS Fund (MHAF) through the Indian Health Service National HIV/HCV Program in both Fiscal Years 2019 and 2020. This support allowed the NNHN to enhance its membership with 12 regional representatives from across the U.S. (inclusive of Alaska and Hawai’i), host bi-monthly meetings, conduct webinars, promote HIV awareness days, and create an NNHN Facebook PageExit Disclaimer to keep the American Indian, Alaska Native, and Native Hawaiian communities abreast of the latest HIV news.

Recent Activities

Among its activities, in February 2020, the NNHN held its first in-person meeting with its newly appointed regional representatives, who were selected at the 2019 United States Conference on AIDS. The Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium hosted this meeting.

The NNHN also hosted a monthly virtual webinar series focused on adapting HIV services due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The webinar topics and presenters included:

  • Adjusting to the Times: HIV Self-Testing Innovations in Native Communities, June 25, 2020—Facilitators Joshua Cody Knight, Southern Plains Tribal Health Board, and Kunane Dreier, Hawai’i Health & Harm Reduction Center, shared their HIV self-testing initiatives during the pandemic. (67 participants)
  • PrEP for Providers During the COVID-19 Pandemic in Native Communities, July 30, 2020. Dr. Jorge Mera, Cherokee Nation Health Services, and Kekoa Kealoha, Hawai’i Island HIV/AIDS Foundation, facilitated the meeting, which covered HIV PrEP basics and the interactions of social determinants of health while providing PrEP navigation services. (54 participants)
  • Harm Reduction Strategies during the COVID-19 Pandemic in Native Communities, August 27, 2020. This webinar was facilitated by Annette Hubbard, Ninilchik Traditional Council; Jessica Rienstra, Northwest Portland Area Indian Health Board; Claudette Thor, Front Street Clinic; and Lee Torres, First Nations Community Healthsource. It provided an overview of the harm reduction approach and strategies utilized by programs, including program planning and implementation and the adaptation of services during the pandemic. (99 participants)
  • Effective Collaborations for HIV Program Sustainability, October 1, 2020. Facilitated by Keiva Lei Cadena, Hawai’i Health and Harm Reduction Center; Elton Naswood, National Native HIV Network; and Savannah Gene, Albuquerque Area Indian Health Board, this webinar covered ways programs can work with partners to support HIV program sustainability.

The NNHN also provided a welcome address at the International Indigenous Working Group on HIV/AIDS’ 2020 International Indigenous Pre-Conference on HIV and AIDS, “Weaving Indigenous Stories of Experience and Resilience: Our Vision for Indigenous Health.”