Post submitted by Kenrick Ross (he/him), Executive Director of the National Queer Asian Pacific Islander Alliance (NQAPIA)
As I reflect on today, National Asian and Pacific Islander HIV/AIDS Awareness Day , I think of the tremendous changes made since it was first commemorated in 2005 by API Wellness Center. Seismic advances in testing, prevention and treatment, especially, have given us the tools to make HIV a manageable condition, and actually end AIDS in the years to come. I can certainly appreciate the progress from my first HIV test 20 years ago when I was tossed a box of condoms and told to “try and live a decent life” before going home to wait two excruciating weeks for the results. Yet, old and persistent barriers like gross inequities in access to care, stigma and a lack of culturally competent strategies stand in our way.
Among API Americans it may seem that we have managed to avoid the worst of the HIV epidemic. According to the CDC, only 3% of Americans living with HIV are Asian or Pacific Islander. It could, and sometimes does, lead us to conclude that it’s not our issue, despite the work of multiple API organizations that prioritize HIV care, generations of API activists on the frontlines of fighting the epidemic and the lived experiences of tens of thousands of us, if not more. And while the term “people living with HIV” refers to those with a positive HIV diagnosis, it is woefully inadequate in describing the reality of HIV’s impact on entire communities.
From the first TV show I saw that mentioned AIDS as a teenager, HIV has been a part of my life. It has shaped my work and activism, the spaces I call home, and the people who have shaped me. This is true for multiple generations of LGBTQ people. For those of us like me who also call Black queer spaces home, this is particularly real.
As the new Executive Director of NQAPIA, I am often asked what our priorities will be going forward. Building on our work around HIV is and will continue to be among those priorities, as we invest in building true safety and sustainability for LGBTQ API communities. In the coming year, we are developing a dedicated approach to improving outreach and access to care, combat stigma, and demand better data aggregation within our communities, and work in solidarity with our partners to advance and enact policies that will bring us all closer to ending AIDS.
Learn more about the Human Rights Campaign’s HIV and Health Equity work at hrc.org/HIV.