Asians Attack City for Lack of HIV Prevention Programs

Categories: Health
healthypenis.jpg
Yo, where's the Asian Healthy Penis?
The San Francisco Department of Public Health is known for being particularly hip and inventive with its STD-prevention campaigns targeting gay men. Based on the progressive campaigning the DPH has conducted in the past, including the Healthy Penis campaign (hello, giant stuffed penis at the Folsom Street Fair!) and marketing the female condom on the side of Muni buses, it's fair to say the Health Department is not shy.

But Asian community health leaders are saying the city has failed at being diverse in its STD prevention efforts, leaving this demographic out of its HIV prevention strategy. Specifically, the Asian Pacific Islander Wellness Center did not get grant money to maintain its HIV prevention programs starting September 1.

The center has told Asian media that the city has no real strategy that targets Asian gay men. But the DPH will tell you otherwise.

The API Wellness Center didn't score high enough on the grant rubric to be selected, partially because its support groups don't specifically focus on HIV prevention, says Mark Molina, associate director of health services.

"We know that Asian Pacific Islanders need more targeted interventions than a one-size-fits-all approach," says Stephanie Goss, spokeswoman for the Asian Pacific Islander Wellness Center. That's because of the number of immigrants with limited English and the cultural stigma of getting tested for HIV makes it especially important that people from their own community approach gay men about being tested.

In addition to cutting some social support groups and online education for Asian gay men, the center will also have to scale back its group of peer leaders from Asian ethnic subgroups that circulated an HIV prevention message at community events, clubs, and bars.

"People want to see someone mirroring themselves," says Molina. "A lot of HIV-positive individuals are falling out of the system, and the only way to bring them back in is through a peer advocate."

City health officials say the new funding will specifically go toward organizations that target gay men, transwomen, and intravenous drug users -- but that doesn't mean Asians will be left out.

"We're going to make sure that [Asian Pacific Islanders] are served in the new environment," says Grant Colfax, DPH director of HIV prevention. "We're working with community programs to make sure no population is left behind.

"With the [Asian Pacific Islander] community, we've learned that issues of stigma, discrimination, and immigration all increase HIV risk, and we're working with the community to address those needs."

Colfax told us that the city offers HIV testing when Asians come in for Hepatitis B screening (remember the "Which one deserves to die?" posters?). He says that the API Wellness Center will continue to offer a support group for Asian transwomen and has federal grants to do HIV prevention work with gay men. Plus, he says, the DPH has a group that specifically focuses on API health in the city. "All this is a strategic picture to ensure health equity for APIs," he says. 

The cost of leaving out Asians from HIV prevention campaigns is too high: Goss of the API Wellness Center says that only 10 percent of Asian men in San Francisco who have sex with men have been tested for HIV.

She said that the CDC has found that one in three Asian Pacific Islanders living with HIV doesn't know it.

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8 comments
Estée Longah
Estée Longah

The good people at DPH fail to understand that communities don't need, nor want, cookie-cutter approaches to dealing with issues. Women, youth, and people of colour can't simply go into the Castro and find it to be the same neighborhood experience that affluent, gay, white men experience. The same holds true for HIV Prevention and social services. Asians & Pacific Islanders have always had to create their own unique spaces to congregate and thrive in since the Gold Rush days because of institutionalized racism and outside hostility.  Just because you say an organization who has never served A&PIs, nor is an expert at serving A&PIs, "..now serves A&PIs.." doesn't make it so.

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AL
AL

For anyone who just read the above article (especially SFDPH staff), please ignore the author's sensationalist framing of an otherwise delicate and complex issue.  The Asian & Pacific Islander Wellness Center is not merely clamoring for inclusion in San Francisco's HIV prevention strategy --which makes no solid and meaningful plans to deliver services to a racial/ethnic group that comprises about one-third of the City's population-- but clamoring for services that are both culturally competent and linguistically appropriate for the diversity of Asian clientele they serve.  With SFDPH not funding API Wellness, the expectation is that other providers are given monies to serve the targeted populations of Latinos and African-Americans, and then form partnerships to serve the needs of APIs, Indigenous Peoples, Women, and youth on an ancillary basis.  The API community is merely shedding the oppressive Model Minority label of being docile and passive, and actually standing up for itself against the very real threat of losing valuable services.  This does not mean that APIs don ninja costumes, katana, and shuriken to raid the offices of SFDPH, but that we respectfully make our voices heard to people like Grant Colfax, who are seemingly not fully aware of and convinced of the extent of the HIV/AIDS epidemic in the API community.  The "attack" that Lauren Smiley speaks of is simply an expression of her desire to add more excitement to a story she probably shouldn't have been covering in the first place.  Excuse her.  --"The Hun"

Ching Koh
Ching Koh

"Attack?"  What a politically incorrect word!!! What kind of journalist are you Ms. Smiley.

Mjimenez
Mjimenez

The article reads like an envelopmental journalism. 

QueerPinoyHIVActivist
QueerPinoyHIVActivist

The issue is not about A&PI Wellness Center and their funding. What the writer fails to understand is the fact that Asians & Pacific Islanders--an ENTIRE racial/ethnic community (and over 1/3 of this city) was OMITTED from a multi-year strategic prevention plan for the entire city/county. SF Dept of Public Health opened the door to politics of race the moment they released a request for proposals structure that created and prioritized special funding categories for racial/ethnic groups, and NO funding category for Asians & Pacific Islanders (also Native Americans, women, youth). This is the same old rhetoric of "there's no data to support that there is a problem in that A&PI community." We'll never know the true picture of the epidemic in under-researched, under-served communities if we never prioritize creating aggressive tools to gather better data on A&PI communities. Though San Francisco Dept. of Public Health is definitely a leader in implementing the National HIV/AIDS Strategy, they really need to understand that  local epidemiology and local demographics need to be strongly considered as well.

Benjamin Leong
Benjamin Leong

What you call attack we call advocacy.  Shame on you Lauren Smiley for you insensitive bias article. 

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