“The parties are great venues to highlight HIV awareness and advocate safer sex lifestyles to reduce the spread of the disease,” said Nikorn Chimkong, Executive Director of The HIV Foundation Asia, a non-profit committed to the full participation of those most affected by HIV in the response to the epidemic and whose main focus right now is on Asian gay men, other men who have sex with men and transgender people.
“HIV within gay men in the region has reached epidemic proportions with at least one in four gay people being HIV positive and perhaps not knowing they are affected,” Nikorn pointed out.
Results from the foundation showed that 24 percent of the1,614 MSM and transgender people it tested in Bangkok between June 2013 and September 2014 were newly diagnosed with HIV.
“The aim of the parties is to support an organisation that advocates for the LGBT community and the health of minorities, especially people living with HIV in Asia-Pacific because there is a problem with HIV among the young as they have not seen the epidemic at its worst,” said Patrick Walsh, who lives part time in Bangkok and who organizes the parties. “We wanted to raise US$5000 this year to donate to charity but we far exceeded that target,” he said.
NJ, a young Thai who attended the recent party in Bangkok, said young gay men tend not to think of HIV because youth makes them feel invincible. Moreover, HIV awareness is very often reduced to boring classroom type lectures that tend to evoke fear and don’t really understand gay men. “Being in a scene that is all gay, having fun and receiving an education about what may affect us is great,” NJ said.
Walsh said his events have also taken to heart The HIV Foundation’s “You Are Not Alone” Campaign to show support for people living with HIV from Southeast Asia and end discrimination toward people affected by HIV by encouraging discussion among friends and family.
The professional event manager and businessman organized parties for gay men in Bangkok during the year-end New Year holidays and which he says will now be a regular feature.
Proceeds from the events called Sundance Asia go to funding non-profit organisations working with gay people affected by HIV in the region. Events include pool and disco type dance parities for which there is an entrance fee.
Those attending the parties were from a wide range of countries in the region including Malaysia, Vietnam, Taiwan, Singapore, Philippines, Indonesia and Australia. About 600 gay men attended the events past December and early January.