Thu, Dec 02, 2004 - Page 2 News List

Civic groups focus on rights abuses on World AIDS Day

By Cody Yiu  /  STAFF REPORTER

To mark World AIDS Day, civic groups yesterday ranked the year's top five HIV/AIDS-rights news stories to urge the public to show concern for the rights of those affected with the disease.

"As the Taiwanese media industry prospers, media exposure on the subject of individuals with HIV/AIDS has increased. However, these individuals have been stereotyped," said Ivory Lin (林宜慧), secretary-general of the Persons with HIV/AIDS Rights Advocacy Association of Taiwan (PRAA).

Individuals with HIV/AIDS in Taiwan suffer from many types of social discrimination and violation of their rights, such as in education, medical, public health and work or personal privacy.

The top story selected by the groups was about a police raid on a homosexual house party on Nong-An Street in Taipei in January, in which participants were suspected to be using illegal drugs. The party-goers were forced to undergo urine and blood tests, and later 28 of them were found to have HIV/AIDS.

Those who tested positive were charged with spreading the disease intentionally, but the charge was later dropped due to a lack of evidence.

Other stories addressed a hospitality school's refusal to admit a student with HIV/AIDS, policies mandating health examinations for foreign teachers, police wearing masks and gloves when dealing with someone with HIV/AIDS, as well as a pregnant hemophiliac who contracted HIV/AIDS through blood transfusion and who was involuntarily discharged from a hospital.

"In the case of the raid on the house party, media attention focused on the fact that condoms were strewn all over the place at the scene, which led the public to believe that homosexuals behaved improperly and that those with HIV/AIDS were maliciously spreading the disease," Lin said.

Lin explained that this particular police raid had not stopped the proliferation of house parties. As sexual urges arise, Lin said, home parties would take place; therefore, safe sex awareness had became ever more important.

Ko Nai-ying (柯乃熒), an assistant professor in the Department of Nursing at National Cheng-kung University, called for a positive take on the use of condoms at house parties.

Ko, who has worked with HIV/AIDS patients for 14 years, said that some police officers put on surgical masks when picking up condoms at house party scenes, as if the party's participants had contracted some highly contagious disease such as SARS.

This, Ko said, showed the lack of knowledge about HIV/AIDS among the police.

"Instead of seeing the condoms from a negative point of view, one should deem condom usage as a positive means of protection taken by the house party's participants," Ko said.

Ko, who knows some of the people who were at the house party, said one participant subsequently committed suicide under the pressure of possibly facing legal prosecution.

"In addition, his HIV/AIDS condition was exposed in the media as events unfolded following the raid. It was the worst way to let his family members know about his condition," Ko said.

Other civic groups participating in the event included the Gender/Sexuality Rights Association Taiwan, the Taiwan Association for Human Rights and the Taiwan Tongzhi Hotline (台灣同志咨詢熱線協會), as well as four others.

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