CAPAC Marks National Asian & Pacific Islander HIV/AIDS Awareness Day

May 17, 2013 Issues: Healthcare

Washington DC – May 19th is National Asian and Pacific Islander HIV/AIDS Awareness Day. Within the Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) community, HIV/AIDS is a significant public health concern which is amplified and complicated by strong cultural stigmas. To mark API HIV/AIDS Awareness Day, CAPAC Vice Chair Rep. Madeleine Bordallo (GU) introduced a resolution “Supporting the goals and ideals of National Asian and Pacific Islander HIV/AIDS Awareness Day.” Members of the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus (CAPAC) also released the following statements:

Rep. Judy Chu (CA-27), CAPAC Chair: “HIV/AIDS threatens Americans of all backgrounds, but in Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) communities that often stigmatize the diagnosis, problems surrounding awareness, education, and access to care are compounded. These factors have led AAPIs to be the only racial group experiencing a continued increase in new HIV infections despite an overall decrease nationwide. That is why I am proud to support my colleague Congresswoman Madeleine Bordallo’s resolution to recognize National Asian & Pacific Islander HIV/AIDS Awareness Day. We must encourage our communities to get tested and prioritize health over saving face.”

Rep. Ami Bera (CA-07), CAPAC Healthcare Taskforce Co-Chair: “Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders have more new HIV infections than any other ethnic group. Cultural issues in the AAPI community cause barriers to prevention that make education and testing within our community absolutely vital. As a doctor, and co-chair of the Health Care Task Force for CAPAC, I think it’s important that we mark National Asian and Pacific Islander HIV/AIDS Awareness Day by coming together to overcome the stigmas that threaten our health and our community and encourage people to get tested.”

Rep. Barbara Lee (CA-13), CAPAC Healthcare Taskforce Co-Chair: “As we observe the National Asian & Pacific Islander HIV/AIDS Awareness Day, I encourage everyone to get tested and know their status. With the diversity of the AAPI community, we must ensure that our outreach and health efforts meet the needs of this culturally and socioeconomically diverse population. While we are making progress against the disease, we still have a long way to go in fighting stigma, expanding HIV testing rates, and modernizing HIV laws.” 

Rep. Madeleine Bordallo (GU), CAPAC Vice Chair: “I join my colleagues in CAPAC in recognizing May 19 as National Asian and Pacific Islander HIV/AIDS Awareness Day. AAPIs have increasing rates of infection yet they continue to have the lowest rates of access to HIV-testing services. To draw attention to the stigma and disparities that may hinder proper treatment and prevention within the AAPI community, I have reintroduced a resolution to honor the memory of 3,542 Asian Americans, Native Hawaiians, and Pacific Islanders we have lost to AIDS, and to recognize the 9,317 whom are still living with HIV/AIDS the United States. On May 19, I urge everyone to get tested for HIV and be better informed.”

Rep. Mike Honda (CA-17), CAPAC Chair Emeritus: “National Asian and Pacific Islander HIV/AIDS Awareness Day is a clarion call for the AAPI community to rise above social and cultural barriers, start a conversation, build a stronger support network, and most importantly, get tested and educated. AAPIs have the highest rate of new HIV infections, even as testing rates remain low. When it comes to HIV/AIDS, instead of saving face, we must begin saving lives.”

Rep. Eni Faleomavaega (AS): “As we enjoy the celebration of Asian Pacific American Heritage Month, we must also take an affirmative stance to address the issues afflicting or community’s well-being. Unfortunately, the cultural HIV/AIDS-related stigma in the Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) community has deterred many AAPIs from getting tested. With the highest rates of increase in HIV infections, our community also has the lowest rate of accessing services. Today, I encourage AAPIs across the Nation to support one another in a spirit of unity as we overcome this increasing health threat. I urge everyone to get tested and know their status.”

Rep. Colleen Hanabusa (HI-01): “While we have continued to make progress in the fight against HIV infection and AIDS, we cannot lose sight of the impact it still has on individuals, families and communities across America. No group is immune from the effects of this devastating disease. Pacific Island nations continue to see significant numbers of cases. Across Asia, increasing the public’s knowledge of HIV and AIDS will allow us to address the dangers that come with stigmatization and lack of awareness. We have work to do.  I want to give special recognition to the outstanding work done by the Military HIV Research Program at the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research, the main building of which now bears the name of the late Senator Daniel K. Inouye. The foresight and support of facilities like WRAIR and the MHRP, and individuals like Senator Inouye, will continue to play a vital role in reducing the global impact of HIV and AIDS.”

Rep. Gregorio Kilili Camacho Sablan (CNMI): “Affecting long-lasting change, particularly in smaller Asian and Pacific Islander communities like the Northern Marianas means raising awareness of how to prevent and treat HIV/AIDS. We have made great strides — we have better statistics, more people have access to care, talking about the disease and prevention is no longer taboo — but there is still more we can do. Still, on this Asian and Pacific Islander HIV/AIDS Awareness Day let's give thanks for our progress. And let us recognize the doctors, nurses, clinicians, caregivers, family, friends and all those who have made our communities healthier by raising HIV/AIDS awareness. Remember: raise your consciousness, know your status, and get tested.”

Rep. Mark Takano (CA-41): “On this National Asian & Pacific Islander HIV/AIDS Awareness Day, we must recognize the outstanding efforts to reduce HIV/AIDS. Yet, there is more to do to reduce the prevalence of this deadly disease, especially in the Asian American and Pacific Islander community, as the AAPI community has seen the highest rate of increase of new HIV infections in the nation. We need to pursue a range of HIV prevention methods, but one of the easiest methods is getting tested. I encourage everyone to get tested and know your status.”

Rep. Anna G. Eshoo (CA-18): “National Asian and Pacific Islander HIV/AIDS Awareness Day draws much needed attention to the HIV/AIDS epidemic among the Asian Pacific American community. The fact that HIV/AIDS rates are diminishing in every racial and ethnic group except for Asian Pacific Americans indicates that we need an active awareness campaign, so that individuals will know their HIV/AIDS status and be tested.”

Rep. Alan S. Lowenthal (CA-47): “As we commemorate National Asian and Pacific Islander HIV/AIDS Awareness Day we must confront the tragic impact of HIV/AIDS within the Asian American and Pacific Islander community. The rate of HIV/AIDS diagnosis within AAPI communities sadly continues to increase. Social stigma surrounding the disease which leads to low testing rates, sexual risk factors, substance abuse, and the limited availability of testing services have all created an untenable situation. The Asian and Pacific Islander community has struggled with the prevalence of HIV/AIDS for far too long. As we all know, this horrendous and crippling disease knows no ethnicity. Today’s awareness day will shed light on the fact that we stand in support of those living their lives with HIV/AIDS; we will listen; we will fight for a cure; and, we will never let them fall into the shadows.”

Rep. Scott Peters (CA-52): “Only 1 in 5 individuals living with HIV & AIDS know they are infected, so it is critical that we increase awareness about these preventable diseases.  With more than 20,000 San Diegans – and more than 500 members of the API community – living with HIV & AIDS I hope that increased knowledge and testing will stop its spread and allow more people with the disease to live fuller, healthy lives.”

Rep. Charles B. Rangel (NY-13): “I am pleased to commemorate National Asian & Pacific Islander HIV/AIDS Awareness Day as one of eleven federally recognized HIV/AIDS Awareness Days that is recognized throughout the year. This is an important day because 1 in 3 Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders living with HIV don't know it. We know that "saving face" is a common cultural concept in the AAPI communities, where individuals seek to protect the family from perceived public shame or disgrace. This contributes to silence about sex, HIV, safe sex practices and also leads to higher rates of HIV infection. As a Representative who has introduced a historic bill addressing the extreme racial health disparities experienced by African Americans, I am committed to finding culturally relevant strategies that will help promote awareness and reduce stigma about this pandemic in the AAPI community.”

Rep. Adam Smith (WA-09): “On National Asian and Pacific Islander HIV/AIDS Awareness Day we stand with those living with HIV/AIDS and work to advance the fight against the disease. The Asian American and Pacific Islander community faces unique challenges regarding HIV and AIDS, including having the lowest rates of regular STI testing.  The fact that an estimated 1 in 3 Asian Americans, Native Hawaiians, and Pacific Islanders living with HIV/AIDS are unaware they are infected is startling. It is critical that we come together to raise awareness and remove the stigma around HIV/AIDS among AAPI Americans. Our country and the global community have made incredible strides over the last 30 years in the battle against HIV and AIDS, but there is a lot of work that remains.  Let us use today to encourage everyone to get tested for HIV/AIDS.”

Background:

National Asian and Pacific Islander HIV/AIDS Awareness Day was established by the Banyan Tree Project in 2005 and promotes HIV/AIDS education in order to reduce the stigma of HIV/AIDS in the Asian American, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Islander Communities. It is observed on May 19th and is officially recognized by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). Data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) shows that Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders were the only ethnic groups with a statistically significant increase in new HIV diagnoses between 2001 and 2008. Despite these increasing rates of infection, AAPIs continue to have the lowest rates of accessing HIV testing. The CDC estimates that 1 in 3 Asian Americans, Native Hawaiians, and Pacific Islanders living with HIV/AIDS are unaware they are infected.

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The Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus (CAPAC) is comprised of Members of Congress of Asian and Pacific Islander descent and members who have a strong dedication to promoting the well-being of the Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) community. Currently Chaired by Congresswoman Judy Chu, CAPAC has been addressing the needs of the AAPI community in all areas of American life since it was founded in 1994.