|Conference focuses on HIV prevention among native youth|
March 21, 2006
A UMNS Report
By Linda Green*
Native American young people will gather April 6-8 in Oklahoma City for a
national conference for native youth on AIDS and HIV awareness and
Called “Native P.R.O.U.D.,” the conference will focus on prevention,
responsibility, ownership, understanding and determination as keys to
helping native young people make wise decisions regarding risky
behavior. The event is sponsored by the United Methodist Native American
International Caucus and the Centers for Disease Control and
“If one youth becomes HIV infected, it puts the whole community at
risk,” Deer said. “We feel that this potential community endangerment is
more dangerous to our communities than, say, us worrying whether the
bird flu will come to America.”
The intended audience is not just native youth who attend church but
those on reservations and in rural communities where AIDS and HIV
infections are high as well. Native youth, he said, have the
second-highest incidence of sexually transmitted diseases in America.
Factors influencing risky behavior include alcohol and drug use and
abuse, which result in unwanted pregnancies and other ills.
The three-day conference is also for church leaders, tribal youth
program staff, health professionals working in native communities,
tribal leaders and church leaders.
With high rates of broken homes on Indian reservations and in Indian
rural communities, there are few positive voices out there saying “you
can make a healthy choice for your life,” Deer said.
“I also firmly believe that this voice must be coming from our
churches,” he said. “We can’t just be ‘preaching stations’ urging young
people to make a decision for Christ without also preaching a message of
The conference is funded through a 2003 faith-based grant the caucus
received from the Institute for Youth Development in Washington, to
support “at-risk” youth through a nationwide youth network. The total
grant was $30,800. The NAIC was the first Native American denominational
ministry to receive funding from President Bush’s faith-based and
community initiative program.
The caucus also received financial support from the Centers for Disease
Control to develop and implement a program of HIV/AIDS awareness among
native communities. “Teen Empowerment” is an abstinence-based prevention
program that provides youth learning opportunities to make healthy
The Rev. Alvin Deer
The program will be introduced at the three-day conference. Youth, the
significant adults in their lives and health professionals serving in
their communities will take advantage of separate educational tracks to
become more aware of the dangers and meet the challenges. Participants
will explore relationships, sexuality, risky behaviors, abstinence and
making decisions that impact their futures.
“Being ‘Native P.R.O.U.D.’ means you take pride in who you are as a
person,” Deer said. “God made native people as a distinct and unique
people in the whole world. We have a heritage that is something to be
proud of, not only culturally but historically. We have a lot to be
proud of as a contemporary person.”
Those providing leadership will include Lisa Tiger, a Muscogee Native
woman who contracted AIDS in the 1980s. She is an AIDS activist and will
speak about her personal experiences and how the disease has affected
For registration and hotel information, contact Deer at (405) 634-2005 or deer4NAIC@aol.com or email@example.com.
*Green is a United Methodist News Service news writer based in Nashville, Tenn.
News media contact: Linda Green, (615) 742-5470 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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