EAST COAST NATIVE
East Coast Native - Interview
is a member of the Onondaga Nation, Snipe Clan. She has 4 children, 3 sons and one daughter as well as 6 grandchildren, 3 grandsons and 3 granddaughters. She is the HIV/AIDS Program Director a department of the American Indian Community House. Ms. Elm is home-based in Syracuse, and is a Licensed Social Worker with New York State.
Interviewed by: Larenia Felix (Dinè – Tótsóhnii / Ashiihi) Copy editor of East Coast Native.
1. Why do you think it’s important for Native People to be educated about HIV and know their status?
Native people especially those living in closed communities feel that HIV does not pose a threat. Some believe that as long as they are intimate with each other in the community that they have nothing to worry about. Yet the statistics of drug abuse and alcohol abuse show that they are not just intimate within the community; that they are going outside of the community for sex as well. If Native people know their status and they are negative they can be educated on how to stay negative and if they have the virus, to get treatment and keep their partners negative. We have an obligation to look to the Seventh Generation.
2. What are your feelings/thoughts on how HIV has impacted the Native Community?
Unfortunately there isn’t one community within the Six Nations that doesn’t have at least one case of HIV. The stigma is alive and well and prevents others from being tested due to what could happen to their families. If HIV continues to spread we will be wiped out. It’s not only the stigma suffered by Native people infected but as well by the non-Native people who when knowing that some Native people have HIV thinking that all Native people have HIV.
3. What are your views/opinions on Comprehensive Sex Education vs. Abstinence Only Education?
Unfortunately it has been shown that abstinence only programs do not work with youth. Abstinence should be part of comprehensive sex education but not the only part. Youth should be in a decision making process and cannot be if not given appropriate education. Parents have a hard time talking to their children about sex and children learn information from their friends that could be misleading.
4. What are your thoughts on the Presidential Candidates stance on Health Care Issues? Funding? And how that will impact Native People?
Native people have always had substandard health care. I belong to a sovereign nation and as such do not vote in the elections. I’m not sure what the candidates are saying regarding health care and particularly for Native people.
5. What are your thoughts/feelings on smaller Community Based Organizations, like the American Indian Community House and the impact their services have on the community?
Organizations like the American Indian Community House are important to the Native community. In New York City this organization helps Native people find help for themselves when they come from their home looking to New York for city streets paved with gold. Native people look at New York is the cure all, end all for making it big. They are overwhelmed when they find that the city is not what they thought it would be like, especially Native people from Reservations. There is not affordable housing, abundant jobs or free medical care. AICH offers them the opportunity to survive in New York until they feel they will either stay or return home, by helping them find affordable housing, or job training. Of course, AICH is a source of information for non-Natives regarding cultural norms or possibly helping track Native ancestry. Native organizations are usually multi-departmental which means that many sources of help are available to the Native community. The HIV/AIDS Department is, staffed by Native people, better equipped to work with the Native community. They know the cultural norms of the community.
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