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Conversations with AIDS.gov - Lance Toma

Hello this is Miguel Gomez with AIDS.gov.

I’m here in Washington, DC with a colleague from California.

Could you introduce yourself please?

My name is Lance Toma and I’m the Executive Director of Asian & Pacific Islander Wellness Center.

The A&PI Wellness Center is a 23 year old organization. We’re located in San Francisco we were started to address the epidemic of HIV/AIDS in Asian and Pacific Islander communities. So we offer HIV services from prevention, care, treatment, testing.

We also do a variety of substance abuse mental health and Hepatitis testing, education and out reach. In addition to that we also do a lot of capacity building so we provide support throughout the bay area, throughout the state of California and nationally in order to address the epidemic of HIV/AIDS in our communities.

We conceptualized it 6 years ago and began this project called the Banyan Tree Project. It’s a campaign that’s year long that culminates every year on May 19 with the National A&PI HIV/AIDS Awareness Day. And we really envisioned it so that we could create awareness, visibility and break the silence around HIV/AIDS in our families and communities.

And this year what our campaign is really about, it’s about talking about saving face that’s such a part of our culture.

And that saving face actually doesn’t make us safe right now.

We have to talk about HIV and I’m asking everyone to talk about HIV with your loved ones, with your families, with everyone.

In our communities we don’t talk about HIV, we don’t talk about sex.

And it is going to harm us and it’s harming us already.

But we don’t have a dialogue around it in our communities in our families.

And so we conceptualized this then to really start the dialogue so that we can normalize HIV as an issue, we can take away the stigma that surrounds it in our communities, in our families, in our homes.

So that we really can address this epidemic and turn it around.

Please go to BanyanTreeProject.org or APIWellness.org and you can get materials and information about May 19 and anything and everything to support you to create an event in your community.

Well, thank you.

This is Miguel Gomez with AIDS.gov.