Statement of Anthony S. Fauci, M.D., Director, National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases on National Asian and Pacific Islander HIV/AIDS Awareness Day
May 17, 2005
May 19, 2005 marks the first annual National Asian and Pacific Islander HIV/AIDS Awareness Day. This commemorative day aims to raise the awareness of Asians and Pacific Islanders in the United States about the devastating impact of HIV/AIDS as well as educating Asian and Pacific Islander communities about the progress in the areas of prevention, care and treatment, and vaccines. Asian and Pacific Islander communities in the United States are diverse, encompassing many cultures and more than 100 languages and dialects that vary widely in area of origin, tradition, and religion.
Worldwide, AIDS has killed more than 20 million people, including 3.1 million in 2004 alone. Through 2003, in the United States, approximately 930,000 people had been diagnosed with AIDS and more than 400,000 people were living with AIDS. Although Asians and Pacific Islanders account for a small proportion of HIV/AIDS cases in the United States, the number of AIDS diagnoses in these communities has increased steadily in recent years. Among Asians and Pacific Islanders diagnosed with AIDS through 2003, 87 percent were men. From 1993 through 2003, the number of Asians and Pacific Islanders living with AIDS increased from 1,253 to 3,826. The numbers of HIV/AIDS cases in Asian and Pacific Islander communities actually may be higher due to underreporting. These statistics and trends underscore the need and importance for outreach and educational efforts within Asian and Pacific Islander communities. As Asian and Pacific Islanders are one of the faster-growing racial/ethnic minority groups in the United States, it is imperative that we educate, support and raise their awareness of HIV/AIDS. However, barriers and obstacles such as lack of access to medical care, varying socioeconomic levels, and cultural and language diversity make it difficult for prevention, education and outreach programs to be effective. Hence, in order to minimize the effects of HIV/AIDS, linguistically and culturally relevant messages are needed to reach Asian and Pacific Islander individuals and communities.
Over the years, the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), a component of the National Institutes of Health, has been committed to a comprehensive strategy to fight HIV/AIDS. This approach includes research in prevention and treatment strategies with emphases placed on the development of safe and effective drugs, microbicides and preventive vaccines. Through successful collaborations between NIAID, research scientists and pharmaceutical companies, a growing number of therapeutic drugs are entering the market to treat those already infected with HIV. Yet, we need to do more.
Despite the efforts of many leading scientists worldwide, a preventive HIV vaccine still does not exist. NIAID remains committed to developing a preventive HIV vaccine as well as other prevention measures such as topical microbicides. We are actively pursuing candidate vaccines in clinical trials both domestically and internationally. For us to develop a vaccine that will work in all populations, we must have all communities be part of the research efforts, at all levels. We must have Asians and Pacific Islanders participate as researchers, medical staff, community educators and vaccine trial volunteers. Most importantly, we must have the support of Asian and Pacific Islander communities.
It is essential that Asians and Pacific Islanders be involved in HIV/AIDS clinical trials so that we can learn if drug regimens or vaccine candidates work in these populations. Asians and Pacific Islanders are also encouraged to get involved at the local and national levels, through community groups, houses of worship, and other venues, to educate their community about the effects of HIV/AIDS and to discuss the need for HIV-related research.
Please join me today, along with national, regional, and local HIV/AIDS groups, in supporting this effort to raise awareness of HIV/AIDS among Asians and Pacific Islanders and to mobilize communities to get involved. Only through collaboration and a willingness to break down barriers and build bridges will we be able to win this fight against HIV/AIDS.
Dr. Fauci is director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases at the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Maryland.
This article was provided by U.S. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.