Skip to content
Catholic Online Logo

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

5/20/2013 (2 years ago)

Catholic Online (

Culture, behavior may be to blame.

As the number of HIV cases spikes among Navajo people, doctors are becoming increasingly worried that the virus is reemerging after years of success in beating back the disease in the United States. Cultural taboos and the closeness of Navajo society may be to blame.

AIDS is more deadly for Native Americans than for people of other races.

AIDS is more deadly for Native Americans than for people of other races.


By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Catholic Online (

5/20/2013 (2 years ago)

Published in Health

Keywords: Navajo, HIV, AIDS, health, taboos, gay, culture, testing, disease

GALLUP, NM (Catholic Online) - Infections of HIV are up about 20 percent in 2012 with 47 new cases diagnosed on the reservation near Gallup New Mexico. A new report from the Indian Health Services shared the alarming statistics which represent the single largest number of annual infections reported by the agency.

Dr. Jonathan Iralu, an infectious disease specialist, told the New York Times, "I'm scared to death. The numbers show there is a dangerous rise, and the time to act is now, before it's too late."

Dr. Iralu compiled the report and spoke to the publication about his early experiences with the disease in the late 1980s. Iralu reflected on how men would enter the hospital "with a fever or a cough, and a few days later they would be dead," the story explained.

Over the past decade, advancements have been made in HIV/AIDS awareness and in treatments that can stall the progress of the disease, thus prolonging the life of patients by years to decades.

However, in 2012, the disease appears to have come back with a  vengeance. There are now About 200 Navajo patients being reported by clinics. The actual rates of infection may be much higher.

Cultural barriers prevent people from speaking to family and friends about their illness and even elders of the tribe refuse to speak about it, let it become a self-fulfilling prophecy that the tribe will suffer from the disease.

Yet, the disease is present and spreading.

The majority of the clients Dr. Iralu sees are men engaged in homosexual activity. They still keep their relationships private and rarely speak to others. These men seek treatment, but do not discuss their behavior or illness with others, making it difficult to stop the spread of the disease.

It's easy to understand why. One Navajo man told Dr. Iralu that when he told his mother he had HIV, she refused to speak to him and served his food on disposable plastic plates.

The man, now 48, has been accepted by his mother only because he explained how the disease is transmitted and that it cannot be transmitted via plates and utensils. This would suggest the power of communication as a solution, however the unidentified man also told the doctor that he would not discuss his illness with his brothers because they might shun him.

Reservation life is very close-knit and everyone on the reservation knows one another. Privacy is difficult to come by. This leads to stigmatization and an avoidance of treatment and other behaviors that could save lives because people would rather suffer quietly than be embarrassed before their family and friends.

The issue is significant for the Navajo and for all Native Americans. Native Americans have a lower survival rate than any other group. This is a direct result of delayed testing and diagnosis. Early detection of HIV is critical to prolonging a victim's life.

The prevalence of drug and alcohol abuse as well as diabetes also exacerbates the HIV/AIDS epidemic on the reservation, leading to earlier deaths.

Dr. Iralu told the New York Times that he's afraid of what will happen if the people do not become more open about discussing HIV and getting tested. "I'm afraid that if we wait too long it could turn into a true epidemic," he said.

For people who have already withstood depredations of epidemic disease and racial abuse, it's even more tragic to see cultural taboos exacerbating a problem that could otherwise be effectively addressed.


Pope Francis: end world hunger through 'Prayer and Action'

Copywriter 2015 - Distributed by THE NEWS CONSORTIUM

Pope Francis Prayer Intentions for October 2015
That human trafficking, the modern form of slavery, may be eradicated.
Evangelization: That with a missionary spirit the Christian communities of Asia may announce the Gospel to those who are still awaiting it.


More Health

'Switching off' certain genes could extend life - by as much as 60 percent scientists say Watch

Image of The Buck Institute for Research on Ageing and the University of Washington identified 238 genes that, when


Experiments conducted on various strains of yeast have led scientists to believe that the removal of certain genes could actually extend human lifetimes by as much as 60 percent. Researchers found that small, genetic tweaks have made organisms live longer. LOS ... continue reading

Brain 'fingerprint' may lead to medical and psychological diagnosis Watch

Image of


A "brain fingerprint," an individual demarcation of brain activity could be used to determine how a patient would react to medical treatment, as well as possible mental illness, researchers say. Researchers at Yale University say that the findings are ... continue reading

British Ebola survivor suffers relapse, back in hospital Watch

Image of British nurse Pauline Cafferkey, who earlier survived the Ebola virus and survived has returned to the hospital.


Sadly, the world is not out of the woods yet when it comes to the terrifying disease of Ebola. Vaccine or not, many patients that survive the organ-melting disease suffer long-term side effects. British nurse Pauline Cafferkey, who earlier survived the virus ... continue reading

Heart attack risk can be determined through simple blood test Watch

Image of A blood test can determine whether someone is at risk of a heart attack.


Recent research published in The Lancet indicates a simple blood test can determine whether people suffering from chest pains are at risk of having heart attack. According to the study, all doctors need to do is check the amount of troponin -a protein in the blood- is ... continue reading

America drinks less soda: The soda industry sees an all-time-low in sales Watch

Image of The soda industry is changing.


Around five years ago, the soda industry fought back against Mayor Michael A. Nutter's proposal of imposing soda taxes in Philadelphia. Soda lobbyists back then organized protests and came up with campaign contributions to local politicians, with the assistance of ... continue reading

5 things people need to know about breast cancer Watch

Image of


Breast cancer is the most prevalent kind of disease that has been affecting women from all over the world. The World Health Organization estimated around 508,000 women die of this disease every year.  LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - While some women fall prey ... continue reading

Early detection test can lead to breast cancer diagnoses before cancer appears Watch

Image of Breast Cancer Awareness Month.


A recent study may make it possible to detect breast cancer before the disease develops. Researchers clarified, however, that the study was based on genetic changes from samples taken from healthy breasts and cancerous breasts. LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - The ... continue reading

ACLU sues Catholic hospital over refusal to abort children Watch

Image of The ACLU is insisting that Catholic hospitals abort still-living children.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

The ACLU is suing Trinity Health Corporation, a Michigan-based Catholic hospital chain, because the organization refuses to perform abortions. The suit is similar to one brought by the ACLU in 2013, that case was dismissed by a Federal court. LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic ... continue reading

Baby born with rare medical mystery thrives Watch

Image of Baby Angelito was born with two tubes for a nose.


Baby Angelito was born with two tubes in place of a nose but his doctors are optimistic about his condition.  LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - Daily Mail reported the medical mystery as well as Angelito's doctors' belief the infant will soon appear normal.The ... continue reading

20-million-year old flea carrying bubonic plague may be real reason dinosaurs went extinct Watch

Image of The Black Death plague devastated entire populations (Interfoto/Alamy)


Preserved in amber, a 20-million-year-old flea is believed to contain an ancient form of one of the world's deadliest bacteria: Black Death.  LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA (Catholic Online) - According to the Journal of Medical Entomology, the fossilized bacteria is ... continue reading

All Health News


Newsletter Sign Up icon

Stay up to date with the latest news, information, and special offers

Subscribe to Catholic OnlineYouTube Channel

Daily Readings

Reading 1, Romans 1:16-25
16 For I see no reason to be ashamed of the gospel; ... Read More

Psalm, Psalms 19:2-3, 4-5
2 day discourses of it to day, night to night hands ... Read More

Gospel, Luke 11:37-41
37 He had just finished speaking when a Pharisee ... Read More

Saint of the Day

Saint of the Day for October 13th, 2015 Image

St. Edward the Confessor
October 13: Edward the Confessor was the son of King Ethelred III and his ... Read More