Though Asians and Pacific Islanders (API) account for approximately two percent of new HIV diagnoses in the U.S., an examination of data reveals the barriers that prevent API people from accessing vital HIV & AIDS services.  According to the CDC, API people living with HIV have the longest delay in HIV diagnoses compared to all other race and ethnicity groups -- 4.2 years.  This delay poses significant risks for undiagnosed individuals and their sexual or drug-using partners. HRC is proud to highlight the work of several individuals working to provide HIV & AIDS services for API and other affected communities.  

Jury Candelario (Los Angeles, California)

Candelario is the Division Director at APAIT, an organization that provides programs and services for people living with and affected by HIV & AIDS.

“Stigma remains the largest barrier to addressing HIV & AIDS within the API community. I still see clients whose parents separate their dishes for fear of contagion--even though we’ve educated them multiple times. We’ve also had significant medical breakthroughs like PrEP and PEP, plus public education campaigns like Undetectable = Untransmittable / U=U, but they are not necessarily reaching communities of color, including the API community.”

Call-to-Action:

“Let’s continue normalizing HIV and not be ashamed. Getting tested is key. Our campaign, #statusissexy is one way we’ve been outreaching to the community to know their HIV status. Find your strength! Challenge the stigma!”

Kunane Dreier (Honolulu, Hawaii)

Dreier is the LGBTQ Health and Capacity Building Manager at Life Foundation, Hawaii’s first HIV & AIDS service organization.

“The biggest challenges that face API folks affected by HIV & AIDS include awareness of HIV and the decreased perception of how HIV can impact their lives. Many individuals don’t get tested due to stigma and shame--or just don’t believe they are at risk.  HIV testing should be routine. It is up to us to normalize HIV in order to take away the power of stigma and shame.”

Call-to-Action:

“It is time for Native Hawaiians and APIs to move forward together to reduce the stigma surrounding HIV. It is up to us to change the thought that HIV is something taboo. Together we can make a difference.”

Sasanka Jinadasa (Washington, D.C.)

Jinadasa is an HRC HIV 360° alum who works as a consultant with Reframe Health and Justice to  provide policy analysis, technical assistance and strategic development for community-based organizations.

“I am very concerned with the lack of research regarding APIs and their drug use, as well as APIs in the sex trade. Many undocumented APIs use sex work as their primary income, but few services are culturally sensitive to API sex workers. A hyperfocus on assimilation narratives has led to an underfocus on mental health, economic need and many other issues faced by API folks.”

Call-to-Action:

“I would love to see our community leaders prioritize APIs who experience social stigma beyond classic ‘model minority’ myths. Our communities experience deep trauma and we need to provide compassionate harm reduction that cares for the whole self.”

Jacob Yang (San Francisco, California)

Yang is the Senior Director of Capacity Building at Asian & Pacific Islander American Health Forum, working to transform HIV programs and organizational approaches to building healthier communities.

“Funders and policy makers continue to fail to address HIV as a serious issue in Asian American, Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander communities. We continue to encounter and push back on a persistent model minority myth that posits that API communities are all higher educated, higher income, and therefore at lower risk for HIV.  But when we disaggregate data and look at API ethnic groups, we can clearly see disparities and barriers to health justice.”

Call-to-Action:

“Stigma prevents people from discussing HIV & AIDS with their communities and providers, which is one reason why API people are the least likely to get tested for HIV. Talk about sex and HIV with friends and family. Push policymakers to collect HIV data specific to API communities.”

For information on HRC Foundation’s work to end HIV and HIV-related stigma, click here.


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