Centers for Disease Control (CDC) Deputy Director-General Shih Wen-yih spelled out his support for same-sex marriage on his Facebook page Monday, becoming the first senior official in Taiwan ever to do so publicly.
Same-sex marriage is not just a basic human right protected by the Constitution, but also beneficial from a health perspective, to prevent and control the spread of HIV and AIDS, he said.
"Who exactly are bothered by same-sex marriage?" he asked. It is not difficult at all to push same-sex marriage to be legalized, unless people judge the issue in a discriminatory manner, he said.
The health official contended that homosexuals are prone to dangerous sexual behavior because they are not accepted by society. He said such people will treat marriage with more respect than heterosexuals if they are given the legal right to marry their same-sex partner.
"Legalizing same-sex marriage is only one small step in the prevention and control of the spread of HIV/AIDS," he said.
According to Shih, it costs about NT$350,000 (US$11,657) per year to treat an HIV/AIDS patient, or a total of NT$10 million if one assumes the government must cover the bills of each new HIV patient under the national health insurance system for 30 years.
Based on the nearly 1,400 men who were infected with HIV in Taiwan through unsafe sex in 2011 alone, that adds up to a long-term bill of NT$14 billion, the official said.
More than half of the CDC's annual budget is spent on HIV drugs. "If the spending continues on such a scale, the country's finances will definitely collapse," Shih warned.
Shih's statement drew mixed responses. The following are excerpts of newspaper reports on the comments:
Ko Nai-ying, an assistant professor at the Department of Nursing of National Cheng Kung University, said same-sex marriage should not be linked to work to prevent the spread of HIV/AIDS.
Having an intimate partner is a basic human right, she said. The private Taiwan Love and Hope Association, for which she serves as secretary-general, advocates legalizing same-sex marriage but rejects the idea that legalization is the only measure to prevent and control the spread of HIV/AIDS, she noted.
Linking HIV infection to homosexual groups not only smears the reputation of certain groups of people, but also can easily lead people to ignore the risk of contracting HIV, Ko said.
The scholar pointed out that over the past two years, the number of people infected with the virus has increased among student groups, with 25 percent of new HIV-infected patients admitted by the Cheng Kung University Hospital in the past five years being students, some of whom are homosexual, while others are heterosexual, she said.
One lesbian couple who tied the knot in Taiwan's first-ever Buddhist same-sex wedding Aug. 11, said they had sent a letter to President Ma Ying-jeou in which they called on the authorities to legalize same-sex marriage.
Although they received a reply from the Presidential Office saying that the Ministry of the Interior has been asked to handle the issue, they said they feel "the government seems to have no intention of dealing with the issue."
Every time the government encounters the same-sex marriage issue, it pushes it aside and says alternative sexual orientation and marriages have yet to be widely accepted by the general public in Taiwan.
"Same-sex marriage is a basic human right. Why should it require the consent of other people?" they asked.
United Daily News:
The Ministry of Justice (MOJ) has said that same-sex marriage is not just about the two people concerned but an issue that concerns identity, inheritance, insurance beneficiaries and parental rights.
According to legal experts, there are no Asian countries in which same-sex marriage has been legalized. If Taiwan wants to be first in the region, it should first establish a set of same-sex partnership regulations to govern the rights and benefits of same-sex couples who live together, the experts suggested.
A study by MOJ-commissioned scholars indicates that although most countries in the world have no protections in place for the rights and benefits of same-sex couples, the United Nations and international human rights organizations have begun to pay attention to the human rights of homosexuals.
Issues concerning the partnership of homosexuals will be one of the most important topics for this generation, the study concludes.
In Taiwan, the number of HIV-infected patients has reached 22,000. As of Aug. 18, there have been 1,404 people confirmed as having contracted HIV this year alone, according to CDC statistics.
Among the new patients, 420, or nearly 30 percent, are aged under 24 years, with the youngest just 15, the tallies show.
Hsieh Sze-min, a physician in infectious disease at National Taiwan University, said the map of HIV infected-groups is changing.
The number of heterosexuals infected with HIV has increased in recent years, he said, noting that the hospital has found that one in four new patients is drug-addicted and that one in four is heterosexual.
He advised those who practice risky sexual behavior such as one-night stands and intercourse without wearing condoms, should get tested anonymously for HIV. Even if found positive, the infection can be controlled with regular medication, he noted.
The lifespan of HIV-infected patients might be no shorter than uninfected people if they receive proper treatment, he said. (Aug. 21, 2011)
(By Elizabeth Hsu)