The Banyan Tree Project Commemorates 10th Annual National Asian & Pacific Islander HIV/AIDS Awareness Day

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Asians and Pacific Islanders speak up about HIV in a new series of personal digital stories. These stories, facilitated by the Banyan Tree Project, are created by community members across the US and Pacific to show the deep impact of HIV and stigma in Asian and Pacific Islander communities.

Asians and Pacific Islanders rarely talk openly about HIV...but these brave storytellers show us how to speak up and stand together.

On May 19th, 2015—the 10th annual National Asian & Pacific Islander HIV/AIDS Awareness Day—the Banyan Tree Project will premiere new digital stories from Asians and Pacific Islanders living with or affected by HIV. The stories are part of a community-driven, community-based national digital storytelling campaign to fight HIV stigma in Asian American, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Islander (AA and NHPI) communities.

Ron H., a Filipino American gay man who has been living with HIV since 2003, tells us how a lifetime of struggling with untreated depression led him to drug addiction, homelessness, and an HIV diagnosis. Without support for these issues, things seemed hopeless. Eventually, Ron was able to get into therapy and a drug addiction treatment program, providing the stability he needed to get into and stay on an HIV treatment regimen. His HIV viral load is now undetectable; he is healthy and unlikely to pass on the virus to others. "I'm still hopeful," he says. "The world can't disappoint me. I don't expect it to be different from how it is and I don't have to fly away." Ron's story exposes the link between mental illness, drug addiction, and HIV risk. she lost her family when she began her gender transition and eventually contracted HIV.

Untreated mental health issues, drug addiction, and stigma have a devastating impact on everyone in the community—people living with HIV and their friends, family members, and allies. Silence, shame, and fear isolate individuals, cause family members to reject loved ones. Fear of these consequences can cause people living with HIV to avoid getting tested or accessing life-saving treatment services.

For AAs and NHPIs, HIV stigma is the primary barrier to HIV testing and access to treatment, leaving AAs and NHPIs the least likely racial group to get tested for HIV (National Health Interview Survey, 2010) and among the least likely to know their status. Data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show AA and NHPI gay and bisexual men are less likely to know they have HIV than their African American or Latino counterparts (Journal of Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndromes, 2010).

“As a community, we must fight HIV stigma in order to achieve the U.S. goal of an AIDS-free generation,” said Sapna Mysoor, associate director of community development at Asian & Pacific Islander Wellness Center. “These storytellers are like our friends and family members, telling us how shame and fear hurts us all. Asians and Pacific Islanders rarely talk openly about HIV, but these brave storytellers show us how to have thoughtful, honest conversations about the disease. They show us how to speak up and stand together.”

To watch more stories and find a National A&PI HIV/AIDS Awareness Day event near you, visit the Banyan Tree Project. The digital stories--by East Asians, South Asians, Southeast Asians, and Pacific Islanders living with or affected by HIV--are created in workshops across the country facilitated by the Banyan Tree Project and the Center for Digital Storytelling. The project is funded by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Office of Minority Health Resource Center.

About the Banyan Tree Project
The Banyan Tree Project—a U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention-funded national community mobilization campaign—is a collaborative led by Asian & Pacific Islander Wellness Center in partnership with community-based organizations across the country, including Asian Americans for Community Involvement (CA), Asian Services in Action (OH), APAIT (CA), Center for Pan Asian Community Services (GA), Life Foundation (HI), and Santa Rosa Community Health Centers (CA). The collaborative uses innovative strategies to engage Asian Americans, Native Hawaiians, and Pacific Islanders in HIV prevention and stigma reduction. The Banyan Tree Project spearheads the annual observance of the National Asian & Pacific Islander HIV/AIDS Awareness Day (May 19th) and provides capacity building assistance to community-based organizations serving AAs and NHPIs in the U.S. and six U.S.-affiliated Pacific Island Jurisdictions. For more information visit

About Asian & Pacific Islander Wellness Center
Asian & Pacific Islander Wellness Center is a San Francisco-based, multi-cultural health organization offering primary care, health education, training, and advocacy programs. We transform lives by advancing health, wellness, and equality for people of all races, ethnicities, sexual orientations, gender identities, and immigration statuses. We believe everyone deserves to be healthy and needs access to the highest quality health care. At A&PI Wellness Center, health care is grounded in social justice. With staff fluent in 20 languages, A&PI Wellness Center delivers programs locally, regionally, and nationally. For press materials or more information please visit

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