Post submitted by Sasanka Jinadasa. Jinadasa is the Capacity Building and Community Resource Manager at HIPS in Washington, D.C., and an HRC HIV 360° Fellow
As a self-identified queer, Sri Lankan hard femme and an HRC HIV 360° Fellow, I frequently speak out about the impact of HIV and AIDS on the Asian and Pacific Islander (API) community. While often over-looked, HIV prevention and treatment efforts need to take into consideration the unique challenges facing the API community, especially since 1 in 5 Asians living with HIV do not know they have it.
For example, as a kid, I never got “the talk.” My parents never sat me down and explained how sex worked and how and where to access condoms and birth control. I didn’t get this talk, much less one that was inclusive of LGBTQ people and the current realities of HIV.
I don’t blame my parents for their reluctance because sex is a taboo topic in many API households, including the Sri Lankan immigrant community I grew up in. I remember a number of my cousins, friends and acquaintances spreading misinformation about HIV simply because they didn’t know any better. This type of environment made it much more difficult for me to talk openly and honestly about my sexuality, sexual health and HIV.
This year, on National Asian & Pacific Islander HIV and AIDS Awareness Day, I’m asking everyone in the API community to learn about the effects of the HIV epidemic on our communities. API people, especially those who identify as LGBTQ, should get tested early and often. I want us to seek out information about HIV, get acquainted with resources in our neighborhoods and take advantage of the many prevention and treatment options available to us. Organizations like HIPS are serving API people year-round and we’re eager to support folks who want to stay healthy and be part of the generation that ends the HIV and AIDS epidemic once and for all.
It’s also important that members of the API community stand in solidarity with other communities disproportionately impacted by HIV & AIDS. The Black community, particularly transgender women and gay and bisexual men, bear the heaviest burden of new HIV transmissions in the United States. As people of color, we should be mindful that conversations about health and HIV will often be bigger than just the API community and will require having that dialogue across cultural differences. But I know we can do it, because I’ve seen it done before.
No more shame. No more stigma. Together, let’s create an AIDS-free generation.
To find out more about the HRC HIV 360° Fellows, click here. Join the conversation about National Asian & Pacific Islander HIV and AIDS Awareness Day by using the hashtags #BeInTheKnow and #APIMay19.