SF Media Alert

Tuesday, May 3, 2005

Asian and Pacific Islander Celebrities Unite to Fight Rising Rates of HIV/AIDS Cases

First National Asian & Pacific Islander HIV/AIDS awareness day to foster acceptance and reduce stigma in Asian & Pacific Islander communities

San Francisco, CA – Monday, May 2, 2005 – The Asian and Pacific Islander Wellness Center has claimed May 19, 2005 as the first-ever, National Asian and Pacific Islander HIV/AIDS Awareness Day. To commemorate this historic event, which is officially recognized by the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, the San Francisco-based A&PI Wellness Center will lead the nation with a special May 19th flagship kick-off event, Family Trees: Rooted in Acceptance, which will be held at The Forum, Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, 701 Mission St., San Francisco, from 5-6 p.m. Along with multimedia presentations, panel discussions will feature A&PI celebrities and experts such as Greg Louganis, Helen Zia, the Hon. Cecilia Chung, and her mother and grandfather, Kristine Silva, and Dr. Steven Tierney, Director of HIV Prevention, SF Dept. of Public Health. A&PI celebrities Esera Tuaolo, Alec Mapa, and Amy Hill will also be present to lend their support. The event is free and open to the public and the media. Similar events will be held in six other cities across the U.S., which includes Chicago, Los Angeles, Washington D.C., Honolulu, New York and Boston.

The A&PI population is one of the fastest growing in the U.S., which makes the need for public awareness even more urgent. HIV data from years 2000 to 2003 indicates a 34 per cent increase in AIDS diagnoses among A&PIs in the U.S. In addition, a strongly entrenched cycle of cultural shame and stigma surrounding issues of disease, sexuality and acceptable behavior continues to thwart access to HIV prevention and care.

“The national awareness day is but one component of the Banyan Tree Project,” said executive director John Manzon-Santos, A&PI Wellness Center. “The key message we want to communicate is that families play an important role in stopping silence and shame surrounding the subject of HIV/AIDS in A&PI communities.”

The National A&PI HIV/AIDS Awareness Day sprouted from the Banyan Tree Project, which is funded by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control & Prevention. The Banyan Tree Project is a ground-breaking national campaign designed to foster acceptance and compassion towards A&PIs at risk for, or with HIV/AIDS. Other campaign activities include the development of public service announcements (PSAs) dramatizing the critical issue of HIV/AIDS in A&PI communities.

The PSAs will be screened at the May 19th event and televised nationally through CBS, Comcast and other networks in May and June. A Banyan Tree pledge form was also developed to “grow” awareness and acceptance by collecting signatures supporting fighting stigma and discrimination.

By informing, teaching and setting a positive example, the Project’s goal is to stop the cycle of discrimination and silence, by eliminating barriers that delay or prevent access to HIV prevention and care services.

According to Manzon-Santos, “The culture of silence and saving face that shrouds topics such as sexuality and safer sex in A&PI populations makes it particularly difficult to overcome the stigma surrounding HIV and AIDS which is often a taboo subject.”

The National Asian & Pacific Islander HIV/AIDS Awareness Day media partners include CBS5/UPN (San Francisco broadcast media sponsor), Comcast (broadband media partner) and Cable Positive (national and local broadcast media sponsor).

The A&PI Wellness Center's mission is to educate, support, empower, and advocate for A&PI communities – particularly A&PIs living with or at-risk for HIV/AIDS. A&PI Wellness Center is the oldest nonprofit HIV/AIDS services organization in North America targeting A&PI communities.

For more information on the A&PI Wellness Center, go to or call 415/292-3400. For more information about the May 19th event and the Banyan Tree Project, go to or call 1-866-5BANYAN.

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The Banyan Tree Project is a program of Asian & Pacific Islander Wellness Center

Our partners are nonprofit and community-based organizations dedicated to providing HIV referrals, education, outreach, advocacy, prevention and care services to A&PI communities.

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