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Asians, Pacific Islanders & HIV: Commemorating May 19

May 19 is National Asian & Pacific Islander HIV/AIDS Awareness Day and World Hepatitis Day. This blog post is one of a series on the impact of HIV and Hepatitis B in Asian & Pacific Islander communities. As A&PIs, you may not believe that you are at risk for these diseases, but you are. Follow our posts throughout the week for different perspectives and stories from our community.

May 19 is the 6th annual National Asian & Pacific Islander HIV/AIDS Awareness Day, marked by community events throughout the US and Pacific Island Jurisdictions. Even in this sixth year, much must still be done to stem the tide of HIV/AIDS in our collective Asian & Pacific Islander (A&PI) communities. We often hear that HIV most affects Blacks, Latinos and gay men—that HIV isn't our disease or our problem. This couldn't be further from the truth.

The most recent data shows A&PI men and women have the highest percentage annual increase in new HIV infections, higher than any other racial or ethnic group. HIV infection rates among A&PI youth are also on the rise. Between 2001 and 2006, the number of new HIV diagnoses among young A&PI gay men more than doubled.

There are over 13 million of us living in the U.S., and our community is growing. But when you look deeper, we are not all the same. “Asians & Pacific Islanders” are not a monolithic culture—collectively we represent 49 distinct ethnic groups speaking over 100 different languages and dialects. This diversity gives us strength, but it also makes it hard to communicate health risk and the need to get tested for HIV. Most prevention education materials are only available in English and Spanish, and limited HIV funding almost makes it impossible to translate materials into A&PI languages.

Very few health providers are culturally and linguistically prepared to adequately serve the needs of the A&PI community. Even when we ask to get tested, sometimes we're turned away. As a group, A&PIs are perceived as "low risk" for HIV infection and health providers often tell us HIV tests aren’t “necessary” (especially if you’re an A&PI woman). Our collective silence as a community doesn't make it easy to get tested either. Silence and shame about sex and HIV, and the real and perceived repercussions of testing positive (such as being rejected by your family and friends) also make getting tested hard for us.

Because of these attitudes, A&PIs have the lowest testing rates among any racial or ethnic group—two-thirds of us have never been tested for HIV and close to 9 million A&PIs don't know their HIV status. Even more alarming is the fact that 1 in 3 of us living with HIV don't know it. That could be your best friend, a family member, or even YOU.

This May 19, we're asking everyone in the community to start talking about HIV. Ask your family and friends to get tested. Learn how to stay safe. Share our series of blog posts with your friends and on your Facebook or Twitter pages. And above all, end the stigma, silence and shame surrounding HIV.

To learn more about May 19, National Asian & Pacific Islander HIV/AIDS Awareness Day, facts about HIV in our community, and events happening nationwide, visit http://www.banyantreeproject.org/.

Your rating: None Average: 5 (11 votes)

Sheoran on Sun, 05/16/2010 - 11:32

Thank you for this post. This month, in addition to being proud of our culture and strong family and social support that we enjoy as part of being Asian, its time to talk about our problems as well. We need to get the word out and make everyone aware of the impact HIV is having on our community.  

Jacob Smith Yang (not verified) on Mon, 05/17/2010 - 03:15

BTP poster at The Borum

Banyan Tree Project poster dirstribution earlier this month resulted in Boston's JRI Health's Sidney Borum Jr. Health Center displaying its poster in downtown clinic site's front window, facing Boston Common. I spotted it Saturday. The Borum is an important resource for providing quality health care for youth and young adults ages 12 to 29 who may not feel comfortable going anywhere else.

The problem of HIV/AIDS in Asian, South Asian, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Islander communties is growing.  Community partners like the Borum are helping us get the word out.

stupplebeen on Mon, 05/17/2010 - 07:07

That's pretty cool! Is anyone from there going to your May 19th event? And thanks for the follow on Twitter!

Kunane Dreier (not verified) on Mon, 05/17/2010 - 11:47

Hey everyone, we hope to see all at our event.  We want our community to come together as one. 

Island Roots is May 19th! 

Island Roots is a free event for youth ages 14-24 to recognize National Asian and Pacific Islander HIV/AIDS Awareness Day and World Hepatitis Day on  Wednesday, May 19th, 2010 from 9:00 am—1:00 pm. 

The event hopes to engage Hawaii’s youth in the fight against AIDS and educate them on how to protect themselves from HIV and other STDs.  Island Roots will feature KSSK DJ Sweetie Pacarro, a Slam Poetry workshop by Kealoha, lunch, prizes, and the “HIV in Hawaii” video presentation.  Free HIV and Hep C testing will be available. Click here for more information on Island Roots.

Space is limited!  Sign up today by contacting Zandria Lewis at 808-521-2437 

 email zlewis@lifefoundation.org.

stupplebeen on Mon, 05/17/2010 - 15:14

Thanks for the info Kunane! You might want to post specifically on the event to do more outreach!

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