Taipei Salon joins fight to combat ignorance, prejudice

By Noah Buchan  /  STAFF REPORTER

Fri, Jul 13, 2007 - Page 15

Nicole Yang (楊捷) sits in the crowded office of one of Harmony Home's halfway houses for people with HIV/AIDS, in the Xinyi District of Taipei. As the non-profit organization's founder and secretary general talks about the disease, volunteers play with and coddle infants in one room while in another former patients care for adults with full-blown AIDS.

The firm but loving care given by the workers is in marked contrast to the reaction Harmony Home has received from residents in other communities. Local opposition to the organization has forced it to move out of several sites.

The residence in Xinyi is Harmony Home's third in as many years and the fear of neighbors finding out that there is an HIV/AIDS hospice in their community lingers in the back of Yang's mind.

"It's already occurred often enough," she said. "We are used to it."

Taiwanese attitudes towards HIV/AIDS are the subject of a lecture being held tomorrow by the Lung Ying-tai Cultural Foundation (龍應台文化基金會) in cooperation with the AIT's American Cultural Association (ACC). Titled Global Citizen: What Do I Have to Do with AIDS?, the organizers aim to raise awareness of the virus in Taiwan.

The lecture, to be held entirely in English, features Yang and a host of other speakers including Nicolas Papp, ACC director, and Regan Hofmann, editor-in-chief of POZ - a magazine dedicated to providing support and education on HIV/AIDS and empowering those suffering from the virus.

Past Taipei Salons have seen all available seats fill up very quickly.

"This time [registration] has been very slow," said Lung Ying-tai. "And this tells us something ... . It's already clear to me, how ignorant the community is about AIDS," she said.