Los Angeles – Actor James Kyson Lee, who plays “Ando” on NBC’s “Heroes”, was called a real-life hero May 19, for encouraging members of the Asian and Pacific Islander communities to get tested for HIV.
Lee was just one of the honorees at the 5th Annual Asian and Pacific Islander National HIV/AIDS Awareness Day Luncheon in Los Angeles. He received the “Unsung Hero Award” for serving as the national spokesperson for the Banyan Tree Project.
“He plays a hero on television, but James Kyson Lee is a real-life hero for helping erase the stigma associated with HIV and AIDS in our Asian and Pacific Islander communities,” said Jury Candelario, executive director of the Asian Pacific AIDS Intervention Team (APAIT).
Also honored at the luncheon was Stephen Simon, AIDS Coordinator for the City of Los Angeles. Martha Chono-Helsley, Executive Director of REACH LA presented Simon with the 2009 Banyan Tree Project “Public Health Leadership Award.”
Additionally, the Banyan Tree Project honored “IMRU,” the long-running gay and lesbian radio show on KPFK. Rita Gonzales, executive director and co-host, accepted the 2009 Banyan Tree Project “Media Award” on behalf of the show.
The Banyan Tree Project, a community program supported by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and local HIV and AIDS outreach organizations across the United States, commemorates national Asian Pacific Islander HIV Awareness Day annually.
Candelario said the goal of the Banyan Tree Project is to reduce HIV-related stigma and discrimination in Asian & Pacific Islander (A&PI) communities that delays or prevents access to critical HIV prevention and care services.
“HIV/AIDS continues to spread in communities of color, including Asians and Pacific Islanders,” he said. “Among A&PIs as a population, AIDS diagnoses increased by 34 percent from 1999 to 2003 in the United States; the only statistically significant increases in HIV/AIDS diagnoses among all racial groups in the US, with A&PI women having the largest increase of all.”
Photo Caption: (Pictured from left to right) Stephen Simon, LA City AIDS Coordinator; Rita Gonzales, “IMRU” Radio Host; Tamlyn Tomita, Mistress of Ceremonies; James Kyson Lee, Actor; and Jury Candelario, APAIT Division Director.