For Immediate Release
May 19, 2010

SAN FRANCISCO – In recognition of National Asian & Pacific Islander HIV/AIDS Awareness Day, the Asian & Pacific Islander American Health Forum (APIAHF) called on the Obama Administration to increase investment in state and local HIV/AIDS prevention programs to stem the rise of HIV/AIDS in communities of color, including Asian American, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Islander communities.

According to the National Alliance of State and Territorial AIDS Directors (NASTAD), more then $170 million was cut from state HIV/AIDS budgets in 2009. In 2010, there have already been an additional $18.5 million in cuts to the HIV and viral hepatitis budgets, and federal funding for core state HIV/AIDS cooperative agreements has also decreased by $23 million. All directly funded local health departments are facing dire budget deficits in FY 2010, crippling efforts to combat HIV in major urban areas.

“The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services should use the Prevention and Wellness Fund to support 100 additional community-based organizations that have recently applied for direct HIV program funding through the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.” said Ed Tepporn, HIV/AIDS program director at APIAHF. “Many of these programs have an established history of serving communities of color, and they have already undergone an external review process. They are ready to hit the ground running.”

Though people of color represent only 30% of the U.S. population, people of color in 2006 accounted for 65% of new AIDS diagnoses and nearly two-thirds of new HIV infections. Recent CDC data has shown that Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders have the highest percentage increase of HIV/AIDS diagnoses. In the five year period between 2000 and 2005, there was a 47 percent increase in new AIDS cases diagnosed among Asian American and Pacific Islander communities, the largest percentage increase among all racial groups.

“Since the mid-1990s, nearly half of the community based organizations that provided HIV prevention programs specifically focusing on Asian American, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Islander have closed or ceased their HIV prevention efforts due to lack of funding,” said Tepporn. “As state budgets continue to face significant shortfalls, Asian American, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Islander communities will potentially face even more HIV prevention and care gaps as more and more program struggle to keep their doors open.”

There are cultural, linguistic, economic and legal barriers to HIV prevention, testing, and care among Asian Americans, Native Hawaiians, and Pacific Islanders. Cultural avoidance of discussing issues of sexual behavior, illness, and death can prevent Asian Americans, Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders from obtaining life-saving information and services.

The Asian & Pacific Islander American Health Forum (APIAHF) influences policy, mobilizes communities, and strengthens programs and organizations to improve the health of Asian Americans, Native Hawaiians, and Pacific Islanders.