(KTSF by Kristen Kayan Choy)
HIV/AIDS awareness is low among the Asian Pacific Islander community compared to other ethnic groups. According to recent research, the rate of increase of new HIV infections among API women is higher than women of other races. Health service providers and advocates hope to raise awareness among API women to get tested, and to provide more training for health service providers to take the initiatives in offering HIV testing to API women.
Dr. Royce Lin is currently working in the HIV treatment clinic at San Francisco General Hospital. He has seen HIV-infected women from the API community who did not know they were infected until they were diagnosed with AIDS. One of his patients is an elderly woman who already has two grandchildren. Dr Lin recalled, “She was infected by an opportunistic infection called PCP, which is a disease associated with HIV infection. At the beginning, she was very scared when I talked to her. In the Asian culture, how do we face it How are we going to tell our family How do we get mental support It’s very difficult.”
Researchers have also shown that most API women are infected by their sexual partners through heterosexual sex.
Dr. Lin says HIV/AIDS prevention education would lower the infection rate among API community, and urges community members to get tested. He adds, “If a husband who get infected through sexual relationships with other women, he continues the sexual relationship with his wife. But his wife does not know about it. But if he knows, he can protect his wife, even he is not prepared to tell his wife about his infection.”
Yet, Dr. Lin is also aware of the stigma about HIV/AIDS that prevents community members from asking for HIV tests from doctors offering the tests.
(The patient might think) “I want to tell the doctor. I want to get tested, but I am afraid the doctor will judge me. Some doctors are not comfortable with offering the test. If I say, hi Miss, would you like to take a HIV test What do you mean ”
Dr Lin said federal health departments aim to have every American tested at least one point in their lives.
Edwin Mah, one of the emeritus board members of the Asian & Pacific Islander Wellness Center in San Francisco thinks women in the HIV community are a vulnerable community that lacks mentorship.
Mah says, “They don’t have too much bonding with others. In the male population there’s more bonding, more supportive networks, because it hit the male population first.”
He encourages women in the HIV community to be more positive towards this disease and accept support from the community.
“If you have women who are more positive, you can mentor a woman. Tell her what she’s going through and help them. They don’t have that kind of mentorship. They are kind of living with this disease alone,” Mah added.
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