TAIWAN - Jan 23, 2004
Taiwanese gay activists and AIDS prevention organizations have slammed sensationalized local media coverage of a police raid on an underground gay men's party. Footage of nearly 100 men cringing in their underwear was run over and over by television stations and found front page coverage in the Chinese language press.
Gay groups point to lingering gay discrimination in a country which has recently been in the news for forwarding legislation to legalize gay marriage.
In addition to the images of the cowering, naked men, interviews with next door neighbors was broadcast saying they were terrified of becoming infected with HIV and describing how they had disinfected their homes in a panic.
Wang Ping, winner of a 2003 Utopia Award for her longtime social activism, said that the general public still equates homosexuality with AIDS. She pointed out that the condoms found in the apartment flat where the party was taking place were viewed as evidence of criminal activity, rather than as essential protection for sexual partners.
A similar crack-down two years ago on Thai gay saunas during a government social order campaign resulted in gay venues removing condoms completely for fear of legal prosecution.
Ivory Lin, secretary general of Persons with HIV/AIDS Rights Advocacy Association of Taiwan, said that the Department of Health breached the privacy of the men at the party who tested positive for HIV by leaking their personal information to police. Lin did not understand why the men were not allowed to put on their clothes before police exposed them to cameras. The mishandling of the raid by the police and media has the effect of frightening people away from being tested for HIV.
Wu Hsu Liang of the Taiwan Tongzhi Hotline Association added that the public is being distracted from the fact that heterosexuals are at equal risk of contracting HIV unless they practice safe sex.
"The way the news was handled was typical of a discriminatory, voyeuristic mentality, designed to send viewers the message, `Yuck! it's disgusting. Everybody come have a look!'" he commented.