The dark side of the blossoming Taiwan gay party scene

Around two-thirds of gay men with HIV in Taiwan are rejected by their families, says a charity worker

Chung Han Lee started working for Harmony Home Association after supporting his HIV-positive partner ‘from unknown, to diagnosis, through all the procedures, problems, depression and physical changes’. Harmony Home has four shelters in Taipei for people with HIV who don’t have that much support. One of their centers has 14 beds for very sick men who have been rejected by their families. And there’s a waiting list.

‘Sixty to 70% of people who live with HIV in Taiwan are all rejected by their families,’ says Lee. ‘It’s common in Asian cultures because of the stigma of the disease. Being HIV means you are gay or a drug user or you have something wrong with your behaviour, with your life.’

The HIV among MSM (men who have sex with men) has grown steadily in Taiwan. New cases have quadrupled in ten years from 309 in 2001 to 1,243 in 2011, according to figures from the CDC (Center for Disease Control).

The actual figures are higher as some foreigners who have the disease don’t report it to avoid deportation.

‘Most of the gay men are well-educated,’ says Lee. ‘They know how to prevent HIV but they just don’t want to use condoms.

‘My uncle, who was the first doctor to introduce cocktail treatment in Taiwan, said “you don’t eat a Chupa Chups with the wrapper on”. If I ask 100 gay men if they wear a condom when they have a blow job only 0.5 people will say yes.’

Lee says the explosion of party drugs in the clubs of Taipei over the last six or seven years has contributed to the spread of the disease.

‘Nowadays there are so many entertainment and sex drugs in the nightclubs or in the sauna. This causes a lot of dangerous behaviour, not only for HIV but also for other STD.

‘People come to the nightclubs from all over Asia, especially from Japan, Korea, Singapore, Hong Kong, China. They will fly to Taipei just for this kind of sex party and a lot of drug dealers come here too.’

Taiwan has a National Health Service who provide free antiretroviral therapy, so many men with HIV lead active lives, with little discrimination.

‘If you are well-educated, you have power and a good job there is no discrimination,’ says Lee. ‘They just don’t tell their colleagues. If they can manage their job and take their medicine regularly there will be no problem.’

But those who are less well-educated and have taken less care of themselves end-up getting sick and have to take time off work.

‘If you have a job and you don’t show up for a month, they just fire you,’ says Lee. So at Harmony Home people with HIV make-up around half of the staff – cleaners, drivers, shop assistants, cooks etc.

‘Here if you don’t work for a month, two months, three months, then you want to come back to work, our door is always open. This is the spirit of harmony home.’

by Anna Leach
Source – Gay Star News