Module 1: Native Cultures


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Goal of Module 1: To provide a cultural background for your HIV/AIDS prevention and intervention program.

There are many layers of diversity within any culture. When learning about Native cultures, it is important to acknowledge the differences between various tribes, nations, villages, and islands. These differences can occur among groups within a single geographical region or across various regions. Although it is impossible to learn the unique characteristics of each Native entity, it is possible to recognize and better understand a specific groupís customs, norms, beliefs, and values in order to gain a distinct cultural perspective.

Contents HIV Prevention Guidelines for Native Peoples:
American Indians/ Alaska Natives/ Native Hawaiians

This module discusses the role of culture in HIV/AIDS prevention, intervention, and care.

It includes information on:

  1. Native Cultural Diversity

  2. Traditionalism

  3. Spiritual and Religious Beliefs

  4. Healing/Healthcare

  5. Worldview

  6. Social Structure

  7. Homelands

  8. Language

  9. Nutrition

Culture is a key part of effective HIV/AIDS prevention, intervention, and care. As our country grows more and more diverse, we must react appropriately to the resulting cultural changes. Our response to this diversity is critical to the development of effective healthcare and well-being. Understanding the role of culture in healthcare is particularly important when working with Native cultures and communities.

What Is Culture?
Culture can be defined as the sum of attitudes, behaviors, customs, and beliefs of a people. Culture includes thoughts, communication styles, social interactions, and roles and relationships. It informs people of the world around them and dictates how they behave in it. Cultural norms, beliefs, and values influence views of health and illness and the ways that people seek and deliver healthcare. Culture affects how people communicate their symptoms, including which symptoms they report and to whom they report them. Culture influences our responses to medical education and intervention. We must acknowledge and draw on cultural components when addressing health issues and concerns.

Culture and Prevention Strategies
Research shows that HIV prevention works best when informed by holistic and community norms, beliefs, and values. In the past, prevention efforts failed when strategies were not suited for the basic needs and values of their focus populations. Native health programs must address the cultural differences found among Native groups to be successful. This is especially important for HIV/AIDS programs that address sensitive topics, such as sex, that some communities consider offensive.

How Will This Module Help?
Module 1 asks you to gather information on different cultural components of your community. To do this, you can talk to elders, community leaders, and community members; you can read and seek out local history and stories; and you can compare published/written materials to verbal feedback from local Native people. With this information on hand, you can gain a better understanding of culture’s effects on the behaviors and beliefs of people in your community. This information will also help you identify specific prevention needs within your community and design and carry out appropriate HIV/AIDS prevention methods.