May 19, 2010
Washington, D.C. -- The National Minority AIDS Council (NMAC) honors the sixth annual National Asian and Pacific Islander HIV/AIDS Awareness Day this May 19th. Established in 2005 by the Banyan Tree Project, this national observance day is geared to stopping HIV/AIDS-related stigma in Asian and Pacific Islander communities.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the number of Asian and Pacific Islanders living with AIDS has climbed by more than 10% in each of the last 5 years. In 2006, more than 15,000 Asian and Pacific Islanders in the U.S. were living with HIV/AIDS; over three-fourths contracted HIV through sexual contact, and 30% were not aware that they had HIV at all -- more than any other ethnic group.
"Many Asian and Pacific Islanders do not know they are risk, since open discussion about sexuality and AIDS in these communities is often considered taboo," says Paul A. Kawata, NMAC's Executive Director. "This year's theme -- 'Saving face can't make you safe' -- clearly speaks to the need to break the silence about HIV prevention, testing, care and treatment in our communities. Our very future depends on it."
The Banyan Tree Project reports that in the U.S., more than half of all Pacific Islanders, and over two-thirds of Asians, have never been tested for HIV. Delayed testing can severely undermine a person's health outcomes and life expectancy, particularly when simultaneously diagnosed with HIV and AIDS. A major step toward mitigating the impact of HIV in these communities, and reducing the stigma associated with it, would be the implementation of routine HIV testing among all adolescents, adults and pregnant women, as recommended by the CDC.
Everyone can play a role in helping to end HIV in Asian and Pacific Islander communities every day. Some action steps include: