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FOR RELEASE: May 17 , 2006
CONTACT: Pamela Williams
Office of Communications
405/271-5601

Asian and Pacific Islanders Recognize May 19 as HIV/AIDS Awareness Day

One key goal of National Asian and Pacific Islander HIV/AIDS Awareness Day, May 19, is to make it more comfortable to talk about HIV/AIDS in Asian and Pacific Islander families and communities. It is important to reach support groups for Asians and Pacific Islanders who are at risk for, or are living with HIV/AIDS, to provide information about how to access and use HIV/AIDS services that are available, according to public health officials at the Oklahoma State Department of Health (OSDH).

“To stop the growing spread of HIV/AIDS, we must dissolve the fear, shame and stigma experienced by Asians and Pacific Islanders at risk for, or currently living with HIV/AIDS,” said OSDH HIV/STD Service Chief Michael Harmon.

AIDS has killed more than 20 million people worldwide since the first cases were diagnosed in 1981, including an estimated 3.1 million people in 2005. In the U.S., nearly 406,000 people were living with AIDS at the end of 2005.

For Asians and Pacific Islanders in the U.S., HIV/AIDS is on the rise. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the number of Asians and Pacific Islanders living with AIDS has climbed by more than 10 percent in each of the last five years. (The statistic is not applicable in Oklahoma since the number of Asians and Pacific Islanders living in the state is too low to statistically determine how many may have the disease.)

This awareness day is a part of the Banyan Tree Project (BTP), a multi-year program to promote acceptance and fight HIV-related discrimination and stigma among Asian and Pacific Islander communities in the U.S. The Banyan Tree Project is named after the sheltering tree common to Asian and Pacific Island cultures and symbolizes the important role families play in stopping the shame and silence around HIV/AIDS in communities. It is funded by the CDC and like similar HIV/AIDS initiatives in other racially ethnic communities, serves as a day to raise awareness of the disease and its impact.

For more information about HIV/AIDS, please call the OSDH HIV/STD Service at (405) 271-4636 or call the HIV/AIDS Hotline at 1-800-535-2437.

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