Thursday, May 13, 2010

Saving face can’t make you safe

Asian andPacific Islander community acknowledges impact of HIV on May 19th, the 6th annual National Asian & Pacific Islander HIV/AIDS Awareness Day 
On May 19th, Asian and Pacific Islander (A&PI) communities across the U.S. and Pacific Island Jurisdictions will gather at over 25 events to acknowledge the impact of HIV on A&PIs, an often overlooked population at increasing risk for HIV. May 19th, 2010 marks the 6th annual observance of National Asian and Pacific Islander HIV/AIDS Awareness Day.

At the events, the Banyan Tree Project will premiere a new social marketing campaign and public service announcement, “Saving face can’t make you safe. Talk about HIV.” Saving face is a common cultural concept for many A&PIs, where the individual seeks to protect the family or community from shame or public disgrace. In practice, “saving face” can prevent people from talking about sexual health or HIV, leading to low HIV testing rates, misconceptions about HIV transmission, a lack of knowledge about safer sex practices and ultimately, increased HIV risk. The Banyan Tree Project urges A&PIs to have the courage to talk about HIV in order to create healthy A&PI communities.

The threat of HIV/AIDS continues to grow in the U.S., particularly in communities of color who collectively represent 70% of the national epidemic. The impact of the disease among A&PIs is alarming, though less-publicized than that of Blacks and Latinos. The most recent data shows A&PI men and women have the highest percentage annual increase in new HIV infections, higher than any other racial or ethnic group. Similarly, HIV infection rates among A&PI youth are on the rise. Between 2001 and 2006, the number of HIV diagnoses among young A&PI gay men more than doubled. Despite this, over two thirds of A&PIs have never been tested for HIV. 

In addition to cultural barriers to HIV prevention education such as “saving face,” there are other unique challenges in reaching the diverse community of more than 13 million A&PIs in the U.S., making up a population of over 49 distinct ethnic groups speaking more than 100 languages and dialects. The need for culturally and linguistically competent health information and providers is great, yet HIV prevention information is available mostly in English and Spanish. This, coupled with the common misconception that A&PIs are at “low risk” for HIV, makes it difficult to communicate HIV risk to many A&PIs. Clearly, HIV stigma affects the A&PI community—where high-risk behavior is often kept under wraps, even between peers—posing significant barriers to HIV testing and timely access to care for many A&PIs.

The federally endorsed Awareness Day events are coordinated by the Banyan Tree Project, a national partnership led by Asian and Pacific Islander Wellness Center in San Francisco. The Banyan Tree Project aims to increase HIV awareness and access to life-saving services for A&PIs by offering HIV testing, educating the community and reducing HIV stigma. To find an event in your area, click here. Join the conversation and talk about HIV.
About the Banyan Tree Project
Funded by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control & Prevention, the Banyan Tree Project is a national partnership that seeks to engage people across the U.S. and Pacific Island Jurisdictions from all walks of life to reduce the shame and discrimination around HIV/AIDS in A&PI communities. Partners include Asian and Pacific Islander Wellness Center (project lead), Hawai’i Multicultural HIV/AIDS Resource Project of Life Foundation (Honolulu), Asian Pacific AIDS Intervention Team (Los Angeles), Massachusetts Asian & Pacific Islanders for Health (Boston) and Asian and Pacific Islander American Health Forum (San Francisco). 

About Asian and Pacific Islander Wellness Center
A&PI Wellness Center’s mission is to educate, support, empower and advocate for Asian & Pacific Islander communities, particularly A&PIs living with or at risk for HIV/AIDS. With staff fluent in 20 languages, A&PI Wellness Center delivers programs regionally, statewide, and nationally, and collaborates with community-based organizations throughout the Asia Pacific Region. 

1 comment:

  1. This is a step above chopsticks and condoms, but only a small one. It gives superficial acknowledgment to a story that's told about why A&PI cultures don't talk much about HIV. But it doesn't learn any deeper lesson from it, in that it still exhorts A&PI communities to change their culture and adopt a talk-y Western model of social change.

    Let's take a broader perspective: what gets constructed here as "shame and silence" (because silence happens to coincide with HIV) is also an integral part of a much larger cultural tradition in which sex is seen as private and not talked about in public discourse. If you make "massive cultural change" a precondition of accepting the campaign message, it's just going to fail. It's more effective to work WITH the culture, not against it: that means small groups, verbal media, gender and age separated groups and matched facilitators.


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