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Rise in HIV among Asian American women

San Francisco, June 2 (): In a shocking revelation by a study conducted among Asian and Pacific  islander women in USA it is revealed that there is an alarming rise in HIV infection making Asian and Pacific  islanders the second most high risk racial group. This is despite the fact that 85% of the group not having undergone any tests. Till now this group was considered by healthcare workers as low risk group mainly due to the cultural norms.  One reason cited is that the women from A and PI groups were reluctant to ask the men to use condoms since the general belief was that they are virgins. A&PI Wellness Center, the Banyan Tree Project and National Asian Pacific American Women’s Forum (NAPAWF) held a press conference highlighting the alarming growth in new HIV infections among Asian and Pacific Islander (A&PI) women.

The press conference commemorated the 7th annual National A&PI HIV/AIDS Awareness Day and featured a panel discussion with a personal story from women living with HIV and the presentation of new HIV and STD data trends affecting A&PI women.

While HIV is still seen as a men’s issue, the disease continues to rise unchecked among A&PIs and A&PI women in particular. Recent analysis of data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reveals that A&PIs have the highest rate of increase in new HIV infections in the nation, the only statistically significant growth among any racial or ethnic group, and yet two-thirds of A&PIs have never been tested for HIV.

The rate of increase for A&PI women is actually higher than that of A&PI men, but the misconception that A&PIs are not at risk for HIV persists—even among healthcare providers who discourage A&PIs from getting tested. In fact, a recent study by panelist Dr. Hyeouk Chris Hahm indicates that A&PI women are less likely than other ethnic groups to be offered an HIV test in OB/GYN settings.

Panelists included Dr. Hyeouk Chris Hahm, a leading researcher on A&PI women’s sexual health from Boston University; Sonia Rastogi from Women Organized to Respond to Life-Threatening Diseases in Oakland; and Jaimie Callahan, an HIV community advocate from Hawai’i, who is also living with HIV. The moderator was Priyanka Singha, the 2009-2010 Miss India USA and co-host of the popular Sony Entertainment Television talk show, Andaaz.

Sonia Rastogi, a spokeswoman for the Positive Women’s Network based in Oakland, Calif., said Asian American women rarely have the ability to negotiate for condom usage by their partners or spouses, especially in traditional marriages where the female partner is expected to be a virgin.

Coercion and power dynamics play a big role in condom negotiation, particularly in relationships where the women is experiencing physical or verbal abuse, said Rastogi.

“Low self-esteem and depression plays a huge role in whether a woman will ask her partner to use a condom,” she said.