The Indigenous HIV/AIDS Research Training program was initiated to achieve two important goals:
The IHART program seeks to contribute to the quantity and quality of HIV/AIDS research in native communities by mentoring and training American Indian Alaska Native (AIAN) and underrepresented ethnic minority (UREM) scholars to design culturally specific research studies and successfully solicit funding for those studies.
IHART’s focus on training UREM and AIAN investigators responds to the call of national and international health organizations for more and better health data on AIAN communities, especially needed in light of the disproportionate impact of HIV among communities of color. Increasing the ranks of indigenous and underrepresented minority scientists conducting culturally grounded research will generate information that can guide effective future prevention and intervention programs.
IHART is designed for mid-level credentialed scholars who have launched their research careers but have not yet been granted RO1 funding. Indigenous and underrepresented minority scholars, and non-Native researchers working with Native communities, are eligible to apply for the program. They will receive training in research and grant design, and in theoretical approaches that take contextual, cultural, and tribal-specific factors into account.
Three to five IHART Fellows will be selected for each cohort year. Two trainees will be drawn from the WWAMI region (Washington, Wyoming, Alaska, Montana, Idaho), representing the fact that more than 25 percent of the Native population live in these states.
The IHART program is housed at the university-wide interdisciplinary Indigenous Wellness Research Institute (IWRI). IWRI is staffed almost entirely by AIAN and directed by two of the leading federally funded AIAN HIV researchers.
The percentage of indigenous peoples worldwide who suffer from chronic illness, death due to accident or injury, high rates of trauma, exposure to violence, and mental illness is out of proportion to the number of Native people in the world’s population. In addition, high levels of poverty, exposure to persistent discrimination, poor access to health care, and cultural oppression may make the indigenous population more vulnerable to raising rates of sexually transmitted infections, including HIV/AIDS.
In the United States, the Centers for Disease Control shows that the rate of AIDS diagnosis among AIAN has been higher than that of Caucasians or Asian/Pacific Islanders since 1995. A 2005 CDC report found that AIAN ranked third in rates of HIV/AIDS diagnosis (after African Americans and Hispanics), when population size is taken into account. (Centers for Disease Control. HIV/AIDS Surveillance Report. Department of Health and Human Services. Available on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Web site.) Natives constituted 1.5 percent of the total U.S. population in 2003, numbering 4.4 million AIAN, with 2.8 million self-identifying exclusively as Native American. The Bureau of Indian Affairs Federal Registry now recognizes 562 distinct and diverse tribal nations.
Native Americans in the United States experience escalating rates of HIV and other sexually transmitted infections (STI), respiratory and reproductive health problems, and early death as a result of chronic diseases such as diabetes and cardiovascular disease. Research into causes of and effective interventions for these health issues must take into account structural factors such as poverty, historic and current social discrimination, lack of access to high quality education and health care, high unemployment rates, and historic and current trauma and exposure to violence as well as behavioral factors.