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A Day to Act on HIV and Viral Hepatitis in the Asian and Pacific Islander Community

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Dr. Koh

Dr. Howard Koh

Tomorrow (May 19) our Nation marks the eighth annual National Asian and Pacific Islander HIV/AIDS Awareness Day and the first–ever National Hepatitis Testing Day. Both observances represent “calls to action” for the country and hold special meaning for me. As an Asian American physician, I have cared for many individuals living with HIV and/or hepatitis. As I stop to honor the patients I have served, I do so knowing these conditions continue to represent substantial health burdens for the AAPI community.

As a Nation, we need to continue our efforts to reduce new HIV infections to zero as we all work to achieve an AIDS-free generation. Some slight progress can be noted. In recent years, the rate of diagnosis of HIV infection among Native Hawaiians or other Pacific Islanders decreased while the rate of diagnosis among Asians has remained stable. In 2010, the rate among Native Hawaiians or other Pacific Islanders was 19.3 per 100,000 population (a decrease from 21.3 in 2007) and the rate among Asians was 6.5 per 100,000 population (the rate in 2006 was also 6.5) in the 46 states with confidential name-based HIV infection reporting. Those diagnosed accounted for approximately 2 percent of the 47,129 persons in the U.S. diagnosed with HIV during 2010. While these rates are relatively low compared to other racial/ethnic groups in the U.S., we need to redouble our commitment.

I remain inspired by the tremendous collaboration of  HHS and community partners to address HIV in AAPI communities and beyond:

  • In the National HIV AIDS Strategy (NHAS) President Obama outlined three goals: 1) Reduce new HIV infections; 2) increase access to care and improve health outcomes for people living with HIV, and 3) reduce HIV-related health disparities. We must continue to work more closely with our federal and community partners, including representatives from diverse AAPI communities, to make the NHAS vision a reality.
  • The Affordable Care Act is changing the landscape for health services delivery in the U.S. The Pre-existing Condition Insurance Program has increased access to preventive care, as well as initiatives to increase racial and ethnic diversity and cultural competency in the health care professions. HHS has also been implementing improved ways to collect and report health data related to race, ethnicity, sex, primary language, and disability status. Such progress will help us to better characterize and compare health problems in targeted populations and move us closer to our vision of a Nation free of health disparities.
  • The Healthy People 2020 objectives are moving us to reduce disparities across diseases and across the life span in AAPI communities and beyond.

Federal funds are helping to address HIV in AAPI communities. Using Minority AIDS Initiative funding, The Office of Minority Health manages The Pacific Project Exit Disclaimer, a capacity-building training and technical assistance project to increase HIV prevention and care services provided to the peoples of the U.S. Associated Pacific Island jurisdictions. Among the funded programs is The Asian Latino Pacific Healthcare Access Project Exit Disclaimer, which is addressing stigma and lack of awareness of HIV/AIDS, promoting HIV prevention, early detection, and improved HIV management among Asian, Pacific Islander and Latino populations of Los Angeles who have limited English proficiency. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention provides HIV prevention funding to community organizations and health departments. Some of the programs target subgroups within AAPI communities to enhance implementation of effective community-based HIV prevention programs. Among the grantees are Asian & Pacific Islander Wellness Center Exit Disclaimer (San Francisco) and APICHA Exit Disclaimer (New York City).

May 19 is also Hepatitis Testing Day

Today we also observe the first-ever national Hepatitis Testing Day. As I discussed in a post earlier this month, viral hepatitis, particularly hepatitis B, has a disproportionate impact on Asian and Pacific Islander communities. Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders make up less than 5 percent of the total population in the United States, but account for more than 50 percent of Americans living with chronic hepatitis B.  Fostering the observance of Hepatitis Testing Day is an important aspect of our cross-agency efforts to implement the Action Plan for the Prevention, Care and Treatment of Viral Hepatitis (PDF 672KB), an effort I am honored to lead.

I encourage everyone to observe National Asian and Pacific Islander HIV/AIDS Awareness Day and Hepatitis Testing Day on May 19. You can:

Together we can make a difference in our response to these two epidemics within AAPI communities and beyond.

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