“Saving face can’t make you safe. Talk about HIV” is the theme for tomorrow’s sixth annual observance of National Asian and Pacific Islander HIV/AIDS Awareness Day. I am an Asian American who has seen the stigma and silence around HIV in my community, so this theme and the day itself have particular meaning for me. On this important occasion, I want to acknowledge all the communities and organizations around the country working to break that silence and address the impact of HIV on the diverse set of people who make up our nation’s Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) communities.
The number of HIV/AIDS cases among AAPIs may be higher than reported because of underreporting or misclassification of Asian Americans and other Pacific Islanders. Many AAPIs in the United States experience cultural, economic and language barriers that contribute to discrimination and make HIV prevention, care, and treatment efforts even more challenging.
This is a time to acknowledge these challenges and expand the use of culturally appropriate solutions. As the lead organizer of National Asian and Pacific Islander HIV/AIDS Awareness Day, the Banyan Tree Project as well as many other organizations have been working to create and share resources, plan local events and reduce HIV/AIDS-related discrimination and stigma in AAPI communities.
Another way we are addressing these challenges is by sharing our voices in the development of our National HIV/AIDS Strategy. Health care providers, advocacy groups, and people living with HIV/AIDS from the AAPI community answered the call and provided input on ways to improve HIV prevention, care, research, and treatment in our nation. The Office of National AIDS Policy has led the Administration’s commitment to developing the Strategy through an inclusive process with a broad range of perspectives and stakeholders, including AAPI communities, and will soon release the National HIV/AIDS Strategy.
I encourage you to join me in taking action and ask yourself: When was the last time I talked about HIV with a family member, friend, or neighbor? CDC recommends that everyone between the ages of 13 and 64 be tested for HIV at least once as part of their routine health care. There are HIV testing sites around the country, many of which offer free or low-cost testing. Many of these locations also offer STD screenings and hepatitis vaccines. To find out where to go in your area for an HIV test, visit www.HIVtest.org , send a text message with your ZIP code to “KNOWIT” (566948), or call 1-800-CDC-INFO (232-4636).
Learn more about AAPI HIV/AIDS Awareness Day and how HIV/AIDS the AAPI community:
Dr. Howard Koh is Assistant Secretary for Health for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services