May 19, 2008
Statement of Anthony S. Fauci, M.D.
Director, National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases
National Institutes of Health
The HIV/AIDS epidemic has emerged to clearly threaten the public health of Asians and Pacific Islanders living in the United States and its territories. On National Asian and Pacific Islander HIV/AIDS Awareness Day, we recognize the imperative to mobilize preventive and therapeutic services to protect this multifaceted community from the scourge of HIV/AIDS.
The incidence of AIDS is on the rise among Asians and Pacific Islanders. The estimated number of AIDS cases in this population grew from 3,574 in 2002 to 4,526 in 2006, and Asians and Pacific Islanders were the only U.S. ethnic or racial group for which the annual number of reported AIDS deaths rose during that period.1,2,3,4,5 Moreover, between 2001 and 2004, the estimated annual percentage change in the number of HIV/AIDS cases in this population—8.1 percent for men and 14.3 percent for women—was higher than in any other U.S. ethnic or racial group.6 The National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), part of the National Institutes of Health, joins with Asians and Pacific Islanders in mourning the members of this community who have died from AIDS and in commending those who provide HIV/AIDS prevention services and who care for people living with HIV.
Asians and Pacific Islanders become infected with HIV most often though unprotected sex with an HIV-infected male partner, and many of these partners do not know they are infected. It is therefore critical that Asians and Pacific Islanders get tested for HIV, learn the HIV status of their sexual partners and practice safer sex.
Unfortunately, Asians and Pacific Islanders get tested for HIV at lower rates than other U.S. populations, despite a comparable risk of HIV infection.7 The stigma often associated with HIV/AIDS may discourage many Asians and Pacific Islanders from getting tested and from seeking counseling and treatment, placing them at risk for developing AIDS and further spreading HIV. NIAID applauds those who are fighting this stigma and strongly endorses testing for HIV during routine medical care for adolescents, adults and pregnant women, as recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.8
Language and culture may present barriers to delivering HIV/AIDS education, testing and care to some Asian and Pacific Islanders. This population comprises at least 49 different ethnic groups and more than 100 languages and dialects.9 We as a nation must develop culturally and linguistically appropriate HIV/AIDS resources for Asians and Pacific Islanders.
On this commemorative day, we thank those who provide HIV/AIDS prevention and treatment to Asian and Pacific Islander communities. We also thank the Asians and Pacific Islanders who have volunteered for clinical trials to develop and test HIV/AIDS prevention and treatment methods, and we urge even more members of this community to participate in such research. Finally, we encourage Asians and Pacific Islanders—and, indeed, all communities—to fight the stigma associated with HIV/AIDS and to champion HIV testing as part of routine medical care.
Information about National Asian and Pacific Islander HIV/AIDS Awareness Day is available at http://www.hhs.gov/aidsawarenessdays/days/asian/index.html. Information about HIV/AIDS prevention, treatment and clinical trials is available at http://www.aidsinfo.nih.gov/.
Dr. Fauci is director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases at the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Maryland.
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Last Updated May 12, 2008