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AIDS activist dedicates 18 years to combating the disease

Shortly after starting up his AIDS-prevention project, Chi felt due to come out. He was then in his late twenties.

“This is how it was. Some time after I said I was gay, my father came to visit me. He came to my apartment on his old bicycle, and at the door he held up two tickets to a quintet performance — you know, a classical quintet, a string quintet. He said to me, you go to this concert with your boyfriend. If you're going to be a homosexual, you should be a classy homosexual.”

“Says Chi almost glowingly, his mother was also able to muster support of her own. Buoyed by their validation, he spent the better half of two decades trying to create something of a dignified gay life. Chi is globally notorious for having repeatedly filed for legal recognition of union with his partner in Taiwan. His appeals have been rejected since 1986. In the '90s, he was first to ask the Taipei City Police Department for the right to hold a gay-rights parade. That was rejected too.

“I didn't get discouraged because I didn't expect anything to come out of my requests. That was never the point. The government saw from my requests that gay people exist, we are here too. That was my point,” says Chi.

“Fast-forward to one recent sunny Saturday, when the 2011 Taiwan LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender) Pride Parade drew more than 50 thousand marchers. It was several steps up from the ten who signed up for the event Chi proposed, so many years ago.

Likewise, AIDS prevention and awareness in today's Taiwan have gone beyond the scale of his original work.

“In 2001, I stopped buying condoms. I didn't need to because other organizations were providing them. I didn't need to buy ad space, didn't need to print pamphlets. So many other civil and government groups were doing that by then,” he says.

“Part of it's thanks to him, but not all. In the riptide of historical forces, the single volunteer is a drop in the bucket. Even so, one activist's 18-year saga turns out to have a sort of happy ending. And because Chi's story is also a story of Taiwan, his ending is too: “People now can have the chance to be more happy, more blessed, and more healthy.”

According to Chi, that was always his point.

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AIDS activist dedicates 18 years to combating the disease
In this photo taken Friday, Nov. 18, Chi Chia-wei (祁家威) is shown in Taipei.

(Enru Lin, The China Post )

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