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News :: Gender : GLBT/Queer : Race
Boston's Asian Community Raises Awareness of HIV/AIDS among Massachusetts Asian Pacific Islanders
22 May 2007
Boston, Mass-- The Massachusetts Asian & Pacific Islanders for Health (MAP) organization presented awards to Niem Nay-Kret, Project Director, Southeast Asian Bilingual Advocates, Inc. and Veseth Poy, Senior Case Manager, Lynn Community Health Center for their efforts to address HIV/AIDS in the Massachusetts Cambodian community. Over 90 community members came out to attend MAP’s Rooted in Acceptance reception and awards ceremony that was held on May 17th at the Boston Center for the Arts. The awards are named for Siong-Huat Chua, a Malaysian-born, Boston-based gay activist, writer, and pioneer in bringing visibility to HIV/AIDS among Asians. Mr. Chua died of AIDS in 1994.
In recognition of National API HIV/AIDS Awareness Day, May 19, and Asian Pacific Heritage Month in May, MAP provided information on HIV/AIDS and the need for testing among Massachusetts Asian, South Asian, and Pacific Islander (API) community. “This year we are focusing on HIV among Massachusetts Southeast Asians, particularly Cambodian community members,” said Jacob Smith Yang, Executive Director of MAP. “Among Massachusetts Asians living with HIV/AIDS, more than 50% indicate a country of birth within Southeast Asia . But Southeast Asians—those born abroad and those born in the United States —constitute only 26% of the state’s Asian population. This indicates a troubling health disparity for Southeast Asians in regard to the spread of HIV.”

Boston City Councilor Sam Yoon supported this effort by receiving oral testing for HIV at the press conference, conducted by Dr. Elisa Choi, MD, of Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center , Division of Infectious Diseases and MAP’s Board of Directors. “It is critical that Massachusetts Asians who believe they may be at risk, get screened for HIV as soon as possible, so that they can get the medical treatment and services they need to stay healthy,” said Councilor Yoon. “It is also important that we as Asian family and community members do our part to make this possible, by building our ability to offer compassion and acceptance for those living with, and at risk for, HIV.”

Annual HIV/AIDS diagnosis rates are increasing among APIs faster than in other groups, according to 2006 statistics from the Centers for Disease Control Prevention (CDC), published in the Morbidity and Mortality Weekly (MMWR). The CDC based their analyses on a review of HIV data covering 2001 through 2004, which found that APIs had not only the highest estimated percentage change in annual HIV/AIDS diagnosis rate, but were the only racial group with statistically significant increases. Nationally, the number of AIDS diagnoses increased alarmingly among APIs by 34% from 1999-2003.

API attitudes of shame and discrimination against those living with, or at risk for, HIV/AIDS help drive the increasing infection rate. Nationally and locally, APIs living with HIV/AIDS—more than any other racial group—tend to delay finding out that they are HIV positive until they have severe symptoms and an accompanying AIDS diagnosis, compromising their health and life expectancy.

“Within our Asian communities, HIV stigma and discrimination are a huge problem, and often become internalized,” said Amit Dixit, MAP's Board Chair, who is living with HIV. “Because I was afraid, I only sought HIV testing after enduring multiple infections and reaching a point where I could no longer walk. I was afraid to get tested, that I had something wrong or let my family down. This delay seriously threatened my health and my very life.”

MAP will also screened a new, national television HIV/AIDS Awareness Public Service Announcement aimed at the U.S. API community, as part of the five-year Banyan Tree Project, funded by the CDC. To view the PSA, please go to
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