One of the activities I enjoyed the most when I lived in Singapore was volunteering for Action for AIDS, the main AIDS organization there. It’s the only organization in Singapore that provides anonymous HIV testing. I wrote articles for their magazine and was a counselor who did intake interviews, signing up people up for an AIDS test if they wanted one–or just answering their questions.
One World AIDS Day, I helped pass out candles to those who came to participate in a candlelight vigil. Back then, there were about 250 people who gathered near Orchard Road for a service that paid tribute to those Singaporeans who had died of AIDS. As a person not from there, I did not feel like an outsider at all. Actually, this was the one place I felt I was engaged in the fabric of Singaporean life. One of my fondest memories was sitting at KFC after a meeting talking with other volunteers while sharing french fries.
Like many large cities, it is easy to live in Singapore and skim across the daily occurances. It is possible to go for weeks without talking to one person outside the realm of the people you have to talk with. This is not a place where people chat it up with strangers while riding on a bus. Observing is more of the norm.
With Action AIDS I belonged. Perhaps, it was because this group of people were also on the outside because of their activities. The Singaporean government had just begun to acknowledge that AIDS had something to do with Singapore, as well as the rest of Asia. In Changi Airport, billboards went up beseaching businessmen to remember their families when they were away. I heard more than a couple stories of women who became infected by a wayward spouse.
So, here it is. Another World’s AIDS Day is almost here. Instead of a candlelight vigil, this year Action for AIDS is sponsoring an AIDS Walk and a Flirt Party on December 2. There are other events listed on the calendar.
I came across this blog by Peter, an American who was living in Singapore at the time of his post. The Singaporean response to AIDS is something he is interested in.