The goal of the Banyan Tree Project (BTP) is to eliminate HIV stigma in Asian and Pacific Islander communities across the United States and its Pacific territories. The BTP's communications and community engagement campaign is led by the Asian and Pacific Islander Wellness Center in San Francisco (A&PIWC), and is funded by the Centers for Disease Control. At the heart of the project is a commitment to sharing stories about HIV that empower people with knowledge and inspire action.
In collaboration with the BTP, StoryCenter has led more than 10 workshops in which Asian and Pacific Islander people diverse in gender identity and sexual orientation have shared and created powerful digital stories about living with or being impacted by HIV and AIDS. A number of A&PIWC staff has attended workshops and facilitator trainings, in order to better support storytellers at workshops.
BTP has extended its work with us by establishing decision making structures that enable interested storytellers to take leadership on project planning and implementation. For example, storytellers often help decide on venues for story screenings, present selected stories, and participate in Q&A sessions. In addition, storytellers who have already experienced the digital storytelling process provide facilitation support in subsequent workshops. Twenty-three storytellers have further expanded their role to include spokesperson duties, for the project. Some have testified to protect funding, promote policy change, and mobilize communities at the local, state, and federal levels; others have presented their stories at conferences; still others have sparked conversations about HIV stigma within their communities, including a young man in the Pacific region who started HIV youth education groups. His story is shared below.