THE BANYAN TREE PROJECT LAUNCHES NATIONAL DIGITAL STORYTELLING CAMPAIGN TO END HIV STIGMA FOR ASIANS, PACIFIC ISLANDERS
COMMUNITIES MOBILIZE IN HONOR OF NATIONAL ASIAN & PACIFIC ISLANDER HIV/AIDS AWARENESS DAY
May 11, 2012 - May 19th, 2012 is the 8th annual National Asian & Pacific Islander HIV/AIDS Awareness Day. To commemorate the day, the
Banyan Tree Project is launching a community-driven initiative to end HIV stigma and discrimination among Asian Americans, Native
Hawaiians, and Pacific Islanders (AAs and NHPIs). "Taking Root: Our Stories, Our Community" is an innovative digital
storytelling project produced in partnership with the Center for Digital Storytelling.
"We're all living with HIV, whether we have the virus or not," says San Francisco Health Commissioner Cecilia Chung, who is
also living with HIV. "Real stories told by real people are the only way to get the community to understand how to break the cycle of
shame. We can choose to perpetuate shame with our silence and judgment or we can choose to save lives with our love and compassion."
Taking Root examines the shame, silence, and discrimination isolating AAs and NHPIs affected by HIV from their communities.
The stories are rueful, like the one told by Hatsume , a young Japanese-American
woman living with HIV. They are also hopeful, like Eric Zheng's story , which
describes his journey from a young medical student recently diagnosed with HIV to his current role as an HIV physician. Taking Root
stories are not testimonials or documentary-style interviews. They are short video narratives created by the storytellers
themselves. They are honest and real.
As the U.S. implements HIV prevention models like "test and treat", engaging communities in ending HIV stigma becomes more
important than ever. "Test and treat" hopes to drastically reduce the chance of HIV infection by immediately putting patients who test
positive on antiretroviral treatment regimens. The success of "test and treat" depends in part on getting more people tested for
HIV and into treatment if they are infected. But communities with high levels of HIV stigma will continue to avoid testing
unless the shame, fear and discrimination that haunts the disease is addressed.
"We know HIV stigma prevents many AAs and NHPIs from getting tested for HIV or accessing treatment services," said Barbara Garcia,
San Francisco's Director of Health. "We need community-based and community-driven initiatives like 'Taking Root' in order to
make an AIDS-free generation a reality."
AAs and NHPIs are the least likely race or ethnicity to get tested for HIV-over two-thirds of AAs and NHPIs have never been
tested for HIV (National Health Interview Survey, 2009). The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that one in three
AAs and NHPIs living with HIV doesn't know it. For AAs and NHPIs, the silence and shame that prevents discussions of sex or HIV also
prevents them from getting tested or treated for HIV.
"Taking Root: Our Stories, Our Community" can be viewed at www.banyantreeproject.org. Taking
Root is an ongoing initiative and will include stories from AA and NHPI communities across the U.S. and the six U.S.-affiliated Pacific
Island Jurisdictions. Taking Root stories are promoted online and at community events nationwide.
About the Banyan Tree Project Supported by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Banyan Tree Project is a national community mobilization and
social marketing campaign to eliminate the shame and silence surrounding HIV/AIDS in Asian American, Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander
communities (AA and NHPI). The Banyan Tree Project produces annual anti-HIV stigma messages and materials, the National Asian & Pacific
Islander HIV/AIDS Awareness Day (May 19th), and provides capacity building assistance to community-based organizations serving AAs
and NHPIs in the U.S. and six U.S.-affiliated Pacific Island Jurisdictions. The Banyan Tree Project is led by Asian & Pacific
Islander Wellness Center in San Francisco. Regional partners include Asian Pacific AIDS Intervention Team (Los Angeles, CA),
Life Foundation (Honolulu, HI), and Massachusetts Asian & Pacific Islanders for Health (Boston, MA).
For more information visit www.banyantreeproject.org.
About the Center for Digital Storytelling The Center for Digital Storytelling (CDS) surfaces authentic voices around the world through group process and participatory media
creation. CDS programs support people in sharing and bearing witness to stories that lead to learning, action, and positive change. Over
the past ten years, digital storytelling has emerged as an important participatory media production method used in a variety of
community, health, educational, and academic research settings. Since beginning this work in the early 1990s, the Center for
Digital Storytelling has drawn from well-established traditions in the fields of popular education, oral history,
participatory communications, public health, and, most recently, what has been called "citizen journalism," to
train and work with small groups of people around the world, on the process and production of short,
first-person video pieces that document a wide range of culturally and historically embedded stories.
For more information please visit www.storycenter.org.