SAN FRANCISCO, CA – API Wellness kicked off National API HIV/AIDS Awareness Day today by urging Asians and Pacific Islanders (APIs) to talk about HIV/AIDS and discuss using Pre-exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP) with their health care providers.
API Wellness, a longtime San Francisco leader in HIV/AIDS care and treatment, is increasing awareness of PrEP in hopes of increasing utilization of the drug in communities of color. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), daily PrEP use can reduce the risk of getting HIV from sex by more than 90 percent. Among individuals who inject drugs, it reduces the risk by more than 70 percent.
“Although API HIV/AIDS infection rates appear low, those statistics are deceptive as a significant amount of under-reporting occurs due to stigma,” said Lance Toma, chief executive officer at API Wellness. “Stigma prevents people from discussing HIV/AIDS with their communities and providers which is one reason why APIs are the least likely race to get tested for HIV.”
According to the CDC, 66.5% of Asian Americans and 43.1% of Native Hawaiian or Other Pacific Islanders have never been tested for HIV.
Toma continued, adding that low PrEP utilization rates are due to a lack of awareness about the drug, misconceptions regarding its affordability, misinformation about its effects, and fear of community stigma about sex.
“We need to encourage APIs, especially those who are transgender and young MSM, to start talking, get tested, and discuss PrEP with their doctors,” Toma said. “Everyone needs to know that saving face can’t make us safe.”
API Wellness is an LGBTQ and people of color community health center that transforms lives by advancing health, wellness, and equality. It believes everyone deserves to be healthy and needs access to the highest quality health care. At API Wellness, health care is grounded in social justice. With two locations, API Wellness is an anchor institution in San Francisco’s Tenderloin neighborhood and a comprehensive health home for the LGBTQ community in the Castro. API Wellness operates a fully licensed, federally qualified health center; runs one of the largest transgender community drop-in centers in the country; and is the premier HIV treatment and care provider for people living with HIV in the Tenderloin. For more information please visit www.apiwellness.org.