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Monday, August 1, 2011

Asians Attack City for Lack of HIV Prevention Programs

Posted By on Mon, Aug 1, 2011 at 3:45 PM

click to enlarge Yo, where's the Asian Healthy Penis?
  • 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


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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Lauren Smiley


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