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Study Finds Disturbing STD Rates among Asian Americans

There's a disturbing research study out of Boston University, on STD rates among Asian Americans. Professor Hyeouk Chris Hahm led the study, after noticing high STD rates among Asian Americans while working for ten years as a psychiatric social worker.

What she found was troubling:

Moreover, the power dynamic between genders became immediately clear.   Asian American women were four times more likely to have a STD than their male counterparts. “This was shocking,” said Hahm, “It was so much higher than the males.”
Accounting for the gender disparity, Hahm suggested that again, culture may be playing a critical role. “Condom use is hard in a culture where women are raised to be accommodating and polite.” She stated, “Asian and Pacific Islander women also have broader interracial dating patterns than Asian American men. This might explain why these women are exposed to higher rates of STDs.”

Over the course the study, Hahm unmasked some myths common about Asian Americans. She said, “There’s a perception that Asian Americans in particular aren’t practicing sexually risky behaviors.  But we found that Asian American young women are at risk of high STDs.  For instance, Asian American women had a higher prevalence of STDs than White women in both 1995 (10.4% vs. 7.7) and 2001 (13.5% vs. 8.3%).  The incidence of STDs (not diagnosed with STDs in 1995, but developed STIs in 2001) among Asian American women was also higher than that of White women." Moreover, the power dynamic between genders became immediately clear.   Asian American women were four times more likely to have a STD than their male counterparts. “This was shocking,” said Hahm, “It was so much higher than the males.” Accounting for the gender disparity, Hahm suggested that...“Asian and Pacific Islander women also have broader interracial dating patterns than Asian American men. This might explain why these women are exposed to higher rates of STDs.”

I think these findings definitely go against some prior conceptions about Asian Americans and sexually transmitted diseases. The 4:1 ratio of STDs among Asian American women to men is astounding. To see what this means, I looked up some global data of STD rates around the world, broken down by gender. In East Asia, and on every other continent, women have slightly higher STD rates than men, however nothing comes remotely close to the 4:1 ratio among Asian Americans.

It's unclear what the study means by "power dynamic," whether it means sexual power/demand, or power within the culture. One can speculate on a wide variety of reasons for why the STD rates are the way they are. I'll refrain from doing so, but nevertheless I thought it was noteworthy to bring up, as a point of discussion. How does this strike you?

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Larissa wrote 1 year 47 weeks ago

study finds disturbing std rates among asian americans

I am glad that the motivating factor for most comments are about the health of Asian-American women. Note: It is heartening to see that according to CDC 2010 the std rates among AAW seem to be dropping -- i.e. somewhere along the line somebody out there got the message. It is still concerning to know, however, that even when STDs for AAW are trending downwards the social matter and popular myth of AAW as being biased in their selection of sexual partners. The impression is that AAW aren't very discriminating or are on the flip-side very much so discriminating. From all of this I gather that there is a very real and serious social issue permeating American popular culture about AAW and the tensions such views can cause within the Asian-American culture itself. There is a definite need for more discussion into these matters.

Anonymous wrote 2 years 3 weeks ago

Another Angle on This Subject

You have to look at it from another viewpoint. There are many asian women who come over to the USA as temporary visitors. They then meet men that they fall in love with who are usually handsome and are sweet talkers(IE PLAYERS with many sex partners). But they marry another man not so good looking, nerdy, but are usually educated with a good paying job and genuine about relationships therefore do not have many sex partners. These women really DO NOT love the genuine guys but marry them knowing full well that they will leave him after the (mandatory 3 year marriage policy) so that they can get green cards. They continue their sexual relationships with the Player therefore picking up the STD. In the end when they get their permanent cards they divorce the genuine guys but are played themselves when Player no longer answers her phone calls and no longer shows up at meeting spots. She then tries to come back to the Genuine guy but he kicks her to the curb as a slut. But now genuine guy gets HIV from wife. If you do the math on this you will get the 4:1 ratio because the Player is doing this with 5 women in a given time period.

Jacqueline wrote 2 years 31 weeks ago

Interesting 'Study'

I have to wonder if anyone who has read this misinformation has actually done any follow-up research of Mr. Hyeouk Hahm’s ‘study.’ His data sources are from 1995 and 2001.

According to the CDC (data from 2010), Asian American women collectively have lower rates of STD infection than white women, across the board. The only exceptions are with HIV, in which they have the same likelihood of infection as white women; and also for The Clap (and I don’t know why) amongst Asian women 35+. Perhaps they are foreigners, I don’t know.

So there you have it. Straight from the CDC.

But really, ladies…. (as someone who is sexually active, and not ashamed of it, and yes I’ve slept w/ both white and Asian guys) Put a wrapper on it, and go get tested regularly (if you’re sexually active). There’s no shame in protecting yourselves… And don’t be afraid to be choosy amongst the men that hit on you. ;-)

E. Lee wrote 3 years 52 weeks ago

Some Hard Truths about Interracial Sex

In order to address this problem, you have to be serious about its causes.

“Asian and Pacific Islander women also have broader interracial dating patterns than Asian American men. This might explain why these women are exposed to higher rates of STDs.”

THE SECOND STATEMENT SHOULD READ:

"This definitely explains why these women are exposed to higher rates of STDs."

Asian women have higher STD rates because they sleep interracially.  Not using a condom and having more sexual partners than Asian American men will only result in an STD if the male partner has an STD in the first place. (Please understand this past sentence before proceeding.)  Asian men have MUCH lower STD rates and so clearly they are not the ones transmitting diseases to Asian women.  

I have nothing against interracial relationships.  My point is that logic should be used to understand this data not political correctness and victimology.

Alvin Lin wrote 4 years 10 weeks ago

RE

To the most recent commenter, I'm not sure that the syphilis article proves the point you attempted to make.  The rates of syphilis are apparently increasing in China, but the article says nothing about any increase in promiscuity among the general population, or STD rate/ratio differences among genders.  The rate of 20 per 100,000 people is suggested by the article as mostly affecting sex workers, and suggests more of a public health issue than a cultural/societal shift concerning sex.

Here are the global STD rates from the original post.  In Asia there is no major difference in rates between genders (and no major overall difference from Western societies).  Your rationale also doesn't help explain the 4:1 STD discrepancy among Asian Americans.

http://www.avert.org/stdstatisticsworldwide.htm

To the other earlier commenter, who guessed that a factor for why Asian American men have lower STD rates is because they use protection more often than Asian American women do...  I think what's happening is that certain Asian Americans are engaging in more risky sexual behaviors in Western societies.  There are multiple possible reasons to explain why this may be the case, including initiating or agreeing to risky sexual behaviors to gain approval or acceptance, as well as media-induced "Yellow Fever" creating more available sexual options and opportunities.

Anonymous wrote 4 years 14 weeks ago

China

To that person whom said that Asia has much lower STD's than the US:

BBC - Syphillis cases rise sharply in China

http://www.google.com/url?sa=t&source=web&ct=res&cd=1&ved=0CBYQFjAA&url=http%3A%2F%2Fnews.bbc.co.uk%2F2%2Fhi%2F8664168.stm&ei=_3H-S4iqN4LYNsWD5Ts&usg=AFQjCNFAxm0Ul2EMDfj49aw5poyxY2wmlw&sig2=2nHv1ZYYkQE-tzjeRsFPXA

 

It looks like the burgeoning East is just as promiscuous as the developed West. The shy beauties of the East are going the same route as the Victorian princesses of the West. Women are just having a lot more causual sex now thanks to advertising.

TKim wrote 4 years 17 weeks ago

re

I think it's dangerous (and also off base) as the researcher half-insinuates, to pin this as a problem ultimately blaming Asian cultures or societies. Look at the global STD rates - the rates in Asia are significantly lower and there is no big difference between genders. I suspect something is going on among Asian Americans who grow up in the United States. There is an interplay between trying to emulate/assimilate into what Asian Americans perceive to be American social and sexual norms, while also living with (either accepting, or tolerating) the various racial stereotypes imposed upon them, by gender.

Here are two articles with Professor Margaret Shih on the impact labels and stereotypes have on people's actual behaviors, actions, and performance:

.http://knowledge.smu.edu.sg/article.cfm?articleid=1262

.http://www.wjh.harvard.edu/~na/Children.pdf

B Anonymous wrote 4 years 17 weeks ago

<p><span style="font-family:

“Asian and Pacific Islander women also have broader interracial dating patterns than Asian American men. This might explain why these women are exposed to higher rates of STDs.”

the above statement is such a bizarre conclusion. they have higher std rates because they sleep with white/black/latino men? the more rational conclusion is that they just don't use protection, regardless of who they are with. they may also have more sexual partners than asian american men.

asian american men may just not have that many sexual partners and when they do maybe they are more likely to use protection. increase in sexual partners coupled with not using protection increases your risk for infection. getting with men who are not asian does not automatically raise your risk.

Alvin Lin wrote 4 years 17 weeks ago

Edit/Update

To follow up, I just received information from the A&PI Wellness Center in San Francisco with some additional sobering information:

-A&PI women had the largest annual percentage increase (14.3%) in HIV rates between 2001 and 2004, which was the highest of any racial or ethnic group. The rate increase for A&PI men over the same period was 8.1%.
-Because A&PIs are perceived to be “low risk” for HIV, they are the least likely to have been tested for HIV: Over 2/3 of Asians and over ½ of Pacific Islanders have never been tested
-1 in 3 A&PIs living with HIV don’t know it
On May 19th there will be a conference about National A&PI HIV/AIDS Awareness Day. To find out more information, check out their website.
http://www.banyantreeproject.org/awarenessday.ph

-A&PI women had the largest annual percentage increase (14.3%) in HIV rates between 2001 and 2004, which was the highest of any racial or ethnic group. The rate increase for A&PI men over the same period was 8.1%.

-Because A&PIs are perceived to be “low risk” for HIV, they are the least likely to have been tested for HIV: Over 2/3 of Asians and over ½ of Pacific Islanders have never been tested

-1 in 3 A&PIs living with HIV don’t know it

On May 19th there will be a conference for National A&PI HIV/AIDS Awareness Day. There will be speakers about HIV and also hepatitis. To find out more information, check out their website.

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About The Author

Alvin Lin

Alvin Lin was born in Taipei, Taiwan and hails from New England. He blogs about Asian American pop culture, film, music, literature and politics, as well as relevant news around the world. He also writes for Imprint Talk. Alvin has degrees from Cornell and MIT.

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