It may not sound like much that East and Southeast Asians made up 4.6% of HIV diagnoses in Ontario from 2009-2010 according to a 2011 study. But if we act anything like our neighbours to the south then the stat that over two thirds of Asian Americans have never been tested for HIV means numbers this low may be a bit naïve.
So HIV testing may not be a priority for us. The Asian Society for Intervention of AIDS (ASIA-Vancouver) sought to make it one – just as ACAS in Toronto does – however due to funding cuts just last year ASIA-Vancouver was forced to shut down services that promoted HIV/AIDS education, awareness and the importance of testing to pan-Asian audiences.
While it is important to note there are budget cuts to just about every service these days, not every cut forces an entire organization to cease operations completely. One question that comes to mind is whether Asian HIV awareness is a priority for funders? What about policy makers?
Out of these questions on priorities, a clear need arises for Asian leadership in HIV/AIDS activism. Asian faces perhaps aren’t the first that come to mind when you think of HIV/AIDS activism and advocacy. We are not the ones in the news. Our organizations aren’t seen at the front of human rights issues – whether or not we are there anyway.
Stigma no doubt plays a significant role for many of us seeking out support and information on HIV/AIDS related issues. And how does stigma effect our ability to lead our own movements? The various communities Asians belong to in Canada are not always the most forthcoming when it comes to talking about this stuff. Many immigrant communities are already under scrutiny in Canada when it comes to health issues, specifically testing positive for HIV. So you can see why it may be something our communities shy away from.
But to break down this stigma, it can help to have Asians leading the way. Supporting our people who are already working on these issues is one step in the right direction. Encouraging, empowering and developing new Asian leadership in HIV/AIDS activism is another invaluable step.
This is the first in a series of Monday posts from Asian Community AIDS Services (Toronto) we hope will get people moving along these lines. To kick us off, this month we are starting with the idea of “Legacy and leadership: Asians and HIV/AIDS activism”. Check back next Monday to hear us talk with some Asian community HIV/AIDS activists on their experience of activism and their hopes for the future of HIV/AIDS activism.
Kenji Tokawa – ACAS Social Media Coordinator