May 16, 2013

SAN FRANCISCO—The U.S. Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC) recently issued specific directives calling for state and local health departments to better track the HIV epidemic among Asian Americans, Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders (AAs and NHPIs). Late last year, they also released a groundbreaking report describing the collective impact of HIV/AIDS, sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), viral Hepatitis, and Tuberculosis (TB) on AAs and NHPIs. Findings reveal a lack of consistent, descriptive health data on the relatively small but fast-growing AA and NHPI population. Together, these documents highlight the need for state and local health departments to pay attention to the diversity and special needs of the AA and NHPI community.

“This is a huge step forward for the health of AA and NHPI communities,” said Kathy Ko Chin, president and CEO of the Asian & Pacific Islander American Health Forum (APIAHF). “Inconsistent reporting has made it hard to design effective health strategies for the people who need it most.”

The CDC’s recommendations to improve HIV tracking in AA and NHPI communities are in line with the goals of the National HIV/AIDS Strategy and specific recommendations in its Federal Implementation Plan. The CDC asks that health departments in five states and three major cities—California, Hawaii, New York, Texas, Washington, Los Angeles, New York City, and San Francisco—collect data on AA and NHPI ethnic subgroups and address misclassification and under-reporting of AAs and NHPIs in national health databases.

“In order to truly end the HIV/AIDS epidemic in a nation as diverse as the United States, we must fully understand its impact on all communities,” said National Minority AIDS Council Executive Director Paul Kawata. “To date, there has been precious little information on the toll HIV/AIDS has taken on AAs and NHPIs. This report provides a critical, albeit limited, profile of the epidemic within these communities. The new HIV surveillance recommendations will result in better data that will prove incredibly useful in developing strategies to address the unique needs of AAs and NHPIs.”

The “Epidemiological Profile 2010: Asians and Native Hawaiians and Other Pacific Islanders” found that almost 40% of gay and bisexual AA and NHPI men had either never been tested for HIV or had not been tested in the past year. The most common reason cited included a belief that they were not at risk for infection. This implies that testing initiatives and prevention messages are failing to reach this population. Stronger, more detailed data describing AAs and NHPIs most at-risk and the barriers they face will help agencies design programs that directly address their needs. Importantly, even this study under-sampled AAs and NHPIs who only represented 3% of the overall population surveyed.

“We must empower AA and NHPI communities to make informed decisions about their personal and sexual health. Improving the ways we track disease among AAs and NHPIs is an crucial first step in that direction,” said Kawata.

The full documents can be found at:

Epidemiological Profile 2010: Asians and Native Hawaiians and Other Pacific Islanders

Effective HIV Surveillance Among Asian Americans and Native Hawaiians and Other Pacific Islanders in California, Hawaii, New York, and Washington State

Asian & Pacific Islander Wellness Center

A&PI Wellness Center is a multicultural health services, education, research, and policy organization. We transform lives, strengthen well-being, and lead under-served communities—of any race, ethnicity, gender identity, sexual orientation, or immigration status—toward justice and health. We continue to educate, support, empower, and advocate for the most marginalized and vulnerable in our communities, particularly A&PIs and people living with HIV. With staff fluent in 20 languages, A&PI Wellness Center delivers programs regionally, statewide, and nationally, and collaborates with community-based organizations throughout the Asia Pacific Region. For more information, please visit www.apiwellness.org.

Asian & Pacific Islander American Health Forum (APIAHF)

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. For more information, please visit www.apiahf.org.