National Asian & Pacific Islander HIV/AIDS Awareness Day

In spite of the increasing burden of HIV/AIDS among Asian, native Hawaiians and other Pacific Islanders (NHOPI), these communities are often the ones left out of the conversation. In honor of National Asian and Pacific Islander HIV/AIDS Awareness Day, it is important to break the silence and raise awareness of the burden, as well as the unique challenges that are facing Asian and NHOPI populations specifically.

According to the Center For Disease Control (CDC), native Hawaiians and other Pacific Islanders made up only 0.2% of the U.S. population and accounted for less than 1% of new HIV diagnoses in 2015. Despite such small percentage, NHOPI had the third-highest rate of HIV diagnoses by race/ethnicity in the United States after black/African Americans and Hispanics/Latinos. In the same report, Asians accounted for 6% of the U.S. population and 2% of new HIV diagnoses in 2015, which was a 36% increase since 2010. For both populations, the majority of new HIV diagnoses affected gay and bisexual men. It is also important to recognize that the reported number of HIV cases among these populations may not reflect the true numbers due to underreporting and race/ethnicity misidentification.

In order to effectively combat HIV/AIDS within Asian and NHOPI communities, specific challenges must be identified and addressed. First, there are still too many people living with undiagnosed HIV, who can unknowingly transmit the virus to others. The strong push for HIV testing amongst Asian and NHOPI populations is much needed. Second, it is crucial to recognize and challenge the cultural factors that may continue to increase the risk of HIV infection among NHOPI communities. Many Asians avoid HIV testing, counseling, or treatment due to language barriers, fear of discrimination, shame, and issues surrounding documentation and immigration. There must be continued intentional efforts to create more safe spaces for NHOPI to openly discuss HIV prevention and treatment, shifting from a perspective of shame to one of empowerment. Lastly, there simply needs to be more conversation. The paucity of research and data on HIV infection amongst Asian and NHOPI populations has significantly limited the number of targeted prevention programs and behavioral interventions. The louder the conversation is, the more successful our fight will be.

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