APICHA Commemorates World AIDS Day
On December 1, 2004, APICHA will host two events to commemorate World AIDS Day. The activities will start at 9:00 A.M. with a breakfast featuring a presentation by Dr. John J. Chin, senior research associate at the New York Academy of Medicine (NYAM) and a member of APICHA’s board of directors, followed by a prayer service at 11 A.M., led by members of the Asian and Pacific Islander (A&PI) HIV faith-based initiative.
APICHA has invited various spiritual leaders of diverse religious affiliations in the A&PI (Asian and Pacific Islander) communities, clients and friends to attend the events, which will be held at APICHA’s office, 150 Lafayette Street in Lower Manhattan, New York City. A moment of silence will take place during the prayer gathering to honor APICHA clients and friends who have passed on. Attendees will also have the opportunity to reflect on the meaning of this year’s World AIDS Day theme, “Women, Girls, HIV and AIDS”.
Therese R. Rodriguez, APICHA’s Executive Director said, “We are proud to join the AIDS activist communities from throughout the world in commemorating World AIDS Day and the impact AIDS has on women and girls. We are especially concerned about the impact among women in our community. A & PI women are a difficult population to reach and to serve. Many of them are immigrants, with a limited knowledge of English. They are unfamiliar and uncomfortable seeking medical care and often wait until they are very ill before going to see a doctor. Some are also victims of domestic violence. Also women are discouraged from getting AIDS information because of the enormous stigma around AIDS and other Sexually Transmitted Infections in the A & PI communities. APICHA has a 15-year reputation as a safe space for people who seek HIV information, wish to get tested, or need to receive medical care, counseling, and other support services. We hope that our partnership with the faith communities will serve as an entry point for men and women who might not feel uncomfortable in obtaining life saving AIDS information and care.”
Dr. Chin will present his research and findings on Asian immigrant religious institutions’ attitudes and beliefs about HIV. The findings are from his research regarding 4 religious institutions: a Hindu temple, an Islamic mosque, a Buddhist temple, and a Chinese Christian church. APICHA has collaborated with NYAM on the research project.
The A&PI HIV/AIDS faith-based initiative, an all-volunteer undertaking, was formed in 2003 when Venerable T. Kenjitsu Nakagaki of the New York Buddhist Church, one of the members of the “Breaking Silence” Coalition, got inspired to develop a sense of community involvement and action in the fight against the AIDS epidemic by mobilizing other spiritual groups in the A&PI communities. Composed of 7 organizations, the Breaking Silence Coalition was formed in 2000 with funds from the Federal and New York State Office of Minority Health. The faith-based initiative is comprised of individuals and leaders from Buddhist, Taoist, Protestant, Catholic, Presbyterian, and Hindu doctrines. Venerable Nakagaki serves as the faith community co-chair. APICHA’s associate director of client services, Shu-Hui Wu is the community agency co-chair. The group meets quarterly at APICHA to communicate and plan for future activities.
The ability of faith-based leaders to mobilize community members has proven to be both effective and powerful, by bringing attention to the religious communities about the serious issues around HIV and AIDS and by providing important information about linguistically appropriate and culturally competent HIV/AIDS services.
Last May, the A & PI faith-based initiative’s collaboration with APICHA resulted in the joint participation in the 19th annual AIDS Walk New York, with Rissho Kosei-Kai, a Buddhist youth group. The effort helped to mobilize 100 young people and to raise $2,500.00 to fund client services at APICHA. In addition, some members of the faith-based initiative also conducted HIV workshops in their respective temples and churches.