Urges Action on Impact of Viral Hepatitis on Community
Washington, DC – Saturday, May 19 is the eighth annual National Asian & Pacific Islander HIV/AIDS Awareness Day. It is also the first ever National Hepatitis Testing Day. Given the heavy toll both epidemics have had on America’s Asian and Pacific Islander (API) communities, it is fitting that these awareness campaigns will take place on the same day.
“While APIs have the lowest recorded HIV infection rate of any racial/ethnic group, they also have the lowest HIV testing rate,” said National Minority AIDS Council Executive Director Paul Kawata. “An estimated two-thirds of all APIs in the U.S. have never been tested for HIV and one of every three APIs living with HIV in the U.S. is unaware of their status. What’s more, infection rates among APIs are on the rise. At the same time, APIs bare a disproportionately heavy burden of viral hepatitis, which often accompanies an HIV diagnosis. While they make up less than 5 percent of the U.S. population, they account for more than half of all Americans living with Hepatitis B.”
“As a proud Japanese-American, I understand the extent to which HIV stigma impacts the API community,” continued Kawata. This stigma is so powerful that people often avoid talking about sex or HIV entirely. This silence serves only to feed fear and misperceptions about how HIV is transmitted. For many APIs, an HIV-positive test result is seen as something that can shame and disgrace not only the individual, but his or her family and community as well. We must do more to combat these perceptions.”
In an effort to combat stigma, the Banyan Tree Project has launched a community-driven initiative titled “Taking Root: Our Stories, Our Community.” The campaign is an innovative digital storytelling project examining the shame, silence, and discrimination isolating APIs affected by HIV from their communities. “Taking Root: Our Stories, Our Community” can be viewed at www.banyantreeproject.org, and is an ongoing initiative that will include stories from API communities across the U.S. and the six U.S.-affiliated Pacific Island Jurisdictions.
“NMAC is proud to stand with its API brothers and sisters in the fight against the twin epidemics of HIV/AIDS and viral hepatitis,” concluded Kawata. “We encourage all APIs – as well as all Americans – to get tested, know their status and take steps to protect themselves. Together, we can bring an end to HIV/AIDS and Viral Hepatitis.”
Contact: Kyle Murphy, (202) 483-6622 ex. 333