|Statement of Anthony S. Fauci, M.D. Director, National Institute
of Allergy and Infectious Diseases National Institutes of Health on National
Asian and Pacific Islander HIV/AIDS Awareness Day May 19, 2006
Today we commemorate the 2nd annual National Asian and Pacific Islander HIV/AIDS
Awareness Day. This day provides an opportunity to increase public awareness
of the destructive effects of HIV/AIDS on Asians and Pacific Islanders (API),
and to renew our commitment to preventing the spread of HIV within all our minority
communities. This day is especially relevant as we approach the 25th anniversary
of the first reported cases of what is now known as AIDS.
Globally, through the end of 2005, approximately 25 million people had died
and 40 million people were living with HIV/AIDS, including more than 8 million
individuals residing in Asia. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control
and Prevention, the number of people with AIDS in the United States. continues
to rise among Asians and Pacific Islanders. From 1993 through 2004, the number
of Asians and Pacific Islanders living with AIDS increased more than threefold,
to 4,045. Most experts speculate that the true number of Asians and Pacific Islanders
with AIDS may actually be higher due to underreporting and misclassification
of cases in API communities. These statistics and trends reflect a growing health
concern for Asians and Pacific Islanders, who comprise one of the fastest-growing
racial/ethnic populations in the United States as well as an emerging high-risk
group for HIV/AIDS.
Public health officials face a number of formidable barriers in their efforts
to raise awareness of HIV/AIDS and promote prevention activities within API communities.
The most significant challenge is the sheer magnitude and diversity of API nationalities
and cultures, which encompass more than 100 languages and dialects. These language
and cultural differences can directly and indirectly affect access and use of
medical care. This is especially true for many recent immigrants who are not
familiar with the U.S. health care system. In addition, a limited number of trained
health care providers understand API traditions and culture in relation to medical
care and preferences. Efforts to overcome these obstacles require linguistically
and culturally tailored messages and greater awareness from the public health
community in planning and implementing HIV/AIDS outreach and educational programs
and strategies within the API communities.
The National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), a component
of the National Institutes of Health, is committed to a comprehensive strategy
to controlling HIV/AIDS that includes a robust biomedical research program to
develop new prevention and treatment measures. Currently, more than two dozen
antiretroviral drugs and drug combinations have been approved by the Food and
Drug Administration to treat individuals infected with HIV. However, these drugs
do not cure HIV infection or AIDS. They can suppress the virus, even to virtually
undetectable levels, but are unable to completely eliminate HIV from the body
and do not prevent an HIV-infected person from passing the virus on to others.
The persistence of HIV infection highlights a compelling need for a preventive
vaccine and other prophylactic measures. Despite significant progress and the
efforts of many scientists around the world, a safe and effective HIV vaccine
does not exist. NIAID remains firmly committed to developing and testing effective
HIV vaccines, as well as topical microbicides that women could use to protect
themselves from HIV and other sexually transmitted pathogens. Currently, more
than 30 candidate vaccines are being tested worldwide. But to determine whether
an HIV vaccine or prevention strategy works in all populations, they must be
tested in all populations. Therefore, it is critical that Asians and Pacific
Islanders participate in HIV/AIDS clinical research, either by volunteering for
a trial, or supporting the involvement of others in such trials. We need the
support of the API communities to continue our fight against HIV/AIDS.
For this 2nd annual National Asian and Pacific Islander HIV/AIDS Awareness Day,
I encourage you to join the effort to educate and raise awareness of HIV/AIDS
in API communities. Only by working together can we remove barriers to prevention
and treatment, save lives, and prevent the further spread of HIV.
Dr. Fauci is director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious
Diseases at the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Maryland.
The National Institutes of Health (NIH) — The Nation's Medical Research
Agency — includes 27 Institutes and Centers and is a component of
the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. It is the primary federal
agency for conducting and supporting basic, clinical and translational medical
research, and it investigates the causes, treatments, and cures for both common
and rare diseases. For more information about NIH and its programs, visit www.nih.gov.