How does HIV stigma affect Asians & Pacific Islanders?


You face stigma everyday—at home, at work, or at school. When you don’t talk about sex with your parents, when you don’t get a test because you’re ashamed, when you don’t believe you can find love because you have HIV, that’s stigma.


If a friend says “stay away from people with HIV,” will you save face or will you talk about it?

Read real-life stories about how your silence hurts your community.

HIV discrimination in the workplace : Takeshi’s Story

In June of 2004, I tested positive for the HIV virus. I informed my bosses, I remember how they took the news with surprising calmness. They simply said, “sorry to hear that,” and continued about business as usual.

Several days later, however, my supervisor summoned me outside. He handed me an envelope with my paycheck inside and told me that they were letting me go. I began to wonder if the reason for my dismissal was due to the fact that I revealed I was HIV positive. Could it be that they were afraid I might be a liability to them?


Fear can make employers socially isolate people living with HIV, even going as far as firing them.

Like Takeshi, Malulani’s client was bullied and mistreated because people found out he was living with HIV. You never have the right to use someone’s HIV status against them. Would you take a stand like Malulani? Tell us below.

Learn how stigma affects employment

HIV in relationships : Adam’s Story

“The government should put everyone with HIV on an island and blow it up.” These very words were said by a man I chose to date. At the time, he was not aware that I was HIV positive. When I was emotionally prepared to reveal my status to him, he reacted with shock and anger. I was accused of tricking him into liking me. My status suddenly became his personal epidemic: “I accidentally used your tooth brush and my gums are bloody. I kissed you after I brushed my teeth.” After months of testing, he is not HIV positive. The fact is, I know my status and I know how to practice safe sex. But I have no other solution of combating HIV stigma in the world of love.

You can’t get HIV through hugging or kissing, but if you don’t know this, you might not want to go to the same school, doctor or restaurant as someone living with the HIV.

Like Adam’s boyfriend, Marson wants to send everyone living with HIV to an island. But Marson found compassion by listening to other people’s stories. Does Marson’s story change your mind about HIV? Tell us below.

Learn how stigma affects the community

Stereotypes in health care settings : Naina’s Story

I knew that I had been in a few risky sexual situations, so I wanted to get an HIV test. I went to my doctor, but he told me as an Asian woman, I wasn’t really at risk. “Don’t worry about it,” he said.

I tried to get tested three different times. Finally, I got an HIV test in another country. I was HIV-positive.


Doctors can use stereotypes to discourage people from getting tested, thinking their patients aren’t at risk for HIV (such as Asian & Pacific Islander women).

Vince was diagnosed with HIV when doctors didn’t think Asians got the virus. Naina’s doctor thought she didn’t have the virus either. Has your doctor ever talked to you about HIV? Tell us about it below.

Learn how stigma affects health care settings

HIV in the family : Henry’s Story

When I was diagnosed with HIV, my mother wanted to come home so she could take care of me. At first, I was relieved, but I soon realized that “taking care of me” really meant she wanted to keep me hidden. She wanted to sweep me and the shame of my HIV status under the rug. I know so many people who tested positive and ended up leaving the Bay Area for other cities just so their friends and families won’t find out they are living with HIV.

Family members often give support to relatives who are sick, but sometime families will reject or disown their own children to hide the shame that comes with HIV.

Henry’s family wanted to sweep HIV and him under the rug to hide his diagnosis. Hope’s sisters went even further—rejecting her so she can’t return home even though she needs their support. Have you ever lost the support of your loved ones because of something you did? Tell us below.

Learn how stigma affects the family

Where do you fit into stigma?

After reading and watching the stories above, have you been in similar situations? Have you been afraid or ignorant in a way that could hurt those around you?

Sharing your story can help others understand the power of their actions. Exposing the truth gives us all a way to do something about stigma.

Tell us your story below   |   Learn how to end HIV stigma

  • National Asian & Pacific Islander HIV/AIDS Awareness Day | May 20, 2014 at 7:30 pm

    […] Watch how HIV stigma affects A&PIs through these real-life stories: […]

    • banyan | Jun 13, 2014 at 9:33 pm

      Thanks for sharing the videos with your community!

  • Belle Haerter | Jun 22, 2015 at 6:17 pm

    I’d also like to convey that most people who find themselves with no health insurance are typically students, self-employed and those that are not working. More than half with the uninsured are really under the age of Thirty-five. They do not feel they are wanting health insurance simply because they’re young as well as healthy. Their income is often spent on homes, food, in addition to entertainment. Most people that do work either full or as a hobby are not provided insurance by means of their work so they go without because of the rising expense of health insurance in the us. Thanks for the ideas you share through this blog.

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