A Place of Caring: Politics of the HIV Testing Centre in the Red House Square, Taipei
The Red House neighbourhood in the Ximen shopping district, located on the south side of Taipei, has been the centre of the city’s vibrant culture of sexual inclusivity and gay activism since the early 2000s. Next to the shining billboards at Ximen Square, the Red House presents itself as a reminder of the neighbourhood’s historical transformation from a marketplace during the Japanese colonial rule in Taiwan (1895–1945) to a major pornography theatre in the 1970s–1990s, while emerging as a new urban centre for youth culture, entertainment and outdoor gay bars in the 2000s. Addressing issues of urban exclusion and inclusion, this paper focuses on an HIV testing booth located in the Red House area. Based on interviews with social workers and drawing analyses from archival research, this paper reflects on the politics of a place of caring. Providing 15-minute HIV testing sessions free for anyone in the gay community, the testing booth is an outpost of the Taiwan AIDS Foundation, a nongovernmental organisation that receives public funds. Despite the fact that HIV tests are now widely available for purchase – even accessible from vending machines – the testing booth’s cosy, discretionary and friendly manner renders it a place of caring, where one can be attended by social workers as well as receiving a consultation.
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.