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Press Release

Asians, Pacific Islanders Reveal How HIV Affects Their Lives, Communities in New Digital Story Series

The Banyan Tree Project Hosts a Series of Twitter Chats Premiering Videos From "Taking Root: Our Stories, Our Community" in Honor of National Asian & Pacific Islander HIV/AIDS Awareness Day

May 13, 2013

San Francisco -- To commemorate May 19th, 2013 -- the 9th annual National Asian & Pacific Islander HIV/AIDS Awareness Day -- the Banyan Tree Project is hosting a series of Twitter chats throughout the month premiering twenty new digital stories from Asian Americans, Native Hawaiians, and Pacific Islanders (AAs and NHPIs) living with or affected by HIV. The Twitter chats are co-hosted by partner organizations across the nation and facilitate thoughtful online conversations about the ways we are all affected by HIV.

In the first Twitter chat on Thursday, May 9th, the Banyan Tree Project and partner organization showcased stories of AAs and NHPIs living with HIV. Jaimie, a community advocate and mother of two, shared a video love letter to her sons whose unconditional support allowed her to stay sober and help others living with the disease.

"I knew I wasn't a perfect mom," Jaimie says. "You gave me space to be me, to make mistakes, to love you ... I know I'm still alive today because of your unconditional love."

In "Courage to Live On," Martin -- a gay Chamorro man from Guam diagnosed with AIDS -- tells us how the secrecy of his status complicates his health. For Martin, openly sharing his story inspires him to keep going.

"Each time I share my story," Martin says, "something within me is lifted. A weight taken away, enabling me to go on living."

In the Twitter chat, community members called the stories "moving," "powerful," and "inspiring." Debates evolved over whether or not it's fair to expect people living with HIV to fight stigma by sharing their stories. Many participants felt that stigma is a community issue and addressing it requires all members -- positive or negative -- to speak out without shame.

Some of the stories in "Taking Root" are by people who are HIV-negative, like Sincera Fritz, a health care provider in Chuuk, FSM. She bravely describes her personal struggle in discriminating against people living with HIV. In Sincera's case, HIV education and powerful personal stories moved her from fear to compassion. Sincera is now a fierce HIV advocate in her community.

As the U.S. works to make an "AIDS-free generation" a reality, engaging communities in ending HIV stigma becomes more important than ever. For all communities, stigma is a powerful barrier preventing people from getting HIV tests or accessing treatment. For the AA and NHPI community -- where the CDC estimates that 1 in 3 people living with HIV doesn't know it and over two-thirds have never been tested for HIV (National Health Interview Survey, 2009) -- addressing the shame and fear that haunts the disease is imperative.

"As a community, it is critical that A&PIs talk about the issues that impact us, including our relationships, sexuality and the impact that HIV has on our families and loved ones," said National Minority AIDS Council Executive Director Paul Kawata. "National Asian & Pacific Islander HIV/AIDS Awareness Day is an important opportunity to start that dialogue and Taking Root is a beautiful and powerful example of how to do so. Hearing stories from individuals like Jaimie and Martin is incredibly important, not only because it highlights the continued toll that this epidemic has on our community, but also our amazing resilience and spirit."

"Taking Root: Our Stories, Our Community" can be viewed at The stories are produced in partnership with the Center for Digital Storytelling.

The Banyan Tree Project is hosting a series of Twitter chats to showcase the stories and HIV discussion topics every Thursday at 5pm Eastern/2pm Pacific from now through June 9th. Co-hosts include, USA Positive Women's Network, Life Foundation, National Minority AIDS Council, and Youth, the Arts, HIV & AIDS Network (YAHAnet). Follow @BTPMay19 to tweet about HIV on the #BTPchat.

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This article was provided by The Banyan Tree Project.
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