API brings attention to AIDS stigma
by Rob Akers
The Asian and Pacific Islander Wellness Center hosted its second annual National API HIV/AIDS Awareness Day with an art show and reception Friday, May 19, at AT&T Park.
Special guests at the reception included actor Jason Scott Lee, cable television star Honey Labrador, and Assemblyman Mark Leno (D-San Francisco).
During the reception, Leno presented Wellness Center's Executive Director John Manzon-Santos with a proclamation commemorating the organization's 20 years of service to the community.
"San Francisco would not be as rich and beautiful as it is today without the API Wellness Center," said Leno, in handing out the award.
Also during the event, API publicly previewed its groundbreaking 30-second public service announcements, which revolve around the organization's campaign to eliminate the stigma associated with HIV/AIDS.
The PSAs are titled "I Am Still Me" and convey the message that anyone can get HIV/AIDS. The multilingual PSAs were developed based on the research findings of a study that was conducted to identify the attitudes and beliefs of Asians and Pacific Islanders toward people living with HIV/AIDS. Focus groups were conducted in San Francisco and four other major cities to ensure local suitability of the message and medium and to assess the potential impact of the message.
Labrador, who introduced Leno as a "champion of the queer community," was emcee of the program's reception.
"It is an obscure little thing to be on a TV reality show," she said of her role on Bravo's Queer Eye for the Straight Girl , "but now it has given me a little platform to stand on and I am so proud."
"I am proud to be a woman, a lesbian, and a mother," she said. "About 17 years after becoming a mother, I came out. I was afraid because of the stigma and how it would affect my daughter. Today, I get to be her role model."
Fighting back tears, Labrador urged those attending the reception to join API's Banyan Tree Project. "I urge you all to join in fighting the stigma of HIV/AIDS in our community," she said.
Lee, who has starred in major motion pictures including Dragon: The Bruce Lee Story, said, "I am blown away by the compassion of the people at the API Wellness Center. ... It lights me up. Being part of this program is very powerful and very moving for me."
Community awards were presented to Cable Positive, PlanetOut Inc., and longtime AIDS activist Steve Lew.
"This year we are thrilled to name our first public policy award after Steve Lew to publicly recognize the tremendous impact this advocacy has had on HIV/AIDS in communities of color," said Manzon-Santos. "Both Cable Positive and PlanetOut Inc. have demonstrated unprecedented leadership nationally in promoting API visibility and fighting HIV-related stigma."