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."
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
"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
"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
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