Module 1: Native Cultures

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 group’s customs, norms, beliefs, and values in order to gain a distinct cultural perspective.

Contents 3 Spiritual and Religious Beliefs

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
In Native communities, spiritual beliefs and religious traditions may govern how community members feel and speak about sex. Native attitudes toward sex and sexual behavior must be examined carefully in HIV prevention work. Like all Native cultural components, sexuality has changed over time. In some communities, alternative genders such as Two-Spirits are no longer accepted and respected due to Christian influence. In some Native communities, spiritual elders work to fight HIV/AIDS; in others, Christian Natives and churches help with HIV/AIDS prevention work. Try to identify the groups currently involved in HIV prevention work in your community; their religious and spiritual beliefs may influence the way that they carry out prevention programs and activities.

  • Consider your community’s ceremonial beliefs and spiritual values. What religions are represented in your community? What spiritual customs and beliefs do Native people acknowledge?

  • Consider the influencing factors to traditional Native beliefs in your community.

  • Identify who is involved in prevention work in your community. How do their religious or spiritual beliefs influence healthcare and HIV prevention?