In many countries in the Asian region the first cases of AIDS were reported in the mid-1980s. It was non-governmental organisations (NGOs) or community-based organisations (CBOs) which responded to this issue quickly. These organisations were established by and for vulnerable people or groups such as sex workers, IDUs and MSM. They worked to educate and provide information to affected people. In the 1990s the spread of HIV accelerated and the incidence of AIDS became serious. In such a situation NGOs and CBOs extended their activities from prevention to care and support. In order to carry out their activities they needed to involve people with HIV/AIDS themselves in their work.
Therefore, the NGOs and CBOs that worked in each country needed an international network. International networks on AIDS work were formed in the Asian region. One of these is the Asia-Pacific Council of AIDS Service Organisations (APCASO) which was established in 1992. This network played an important role in organising the international congresses on AIDS in the Asian region.
In Taiwan, two NGOs began work on HIV/AIDS issues from the earliest stages. These organisations were the Light of Friendship AIDS Control Association of Taiwan which was established in 1992 and the Taiwan AIDS Society formed in 1992. Since 2003 in Taiwan the number of NGOs working on AIDS has been increasing and these organisations support people who cannot access governmental services. Taiwan provides a good example of cooperation between governmental organisations and NGOs on programs directed at MSM. The Taiwan Council on Disease Control and NGOs work together in the gay community to provide free HIV testing and counselling and distribute condoms and HIV prevention information at venues such as bathhouses, gay bars and cruising parks where gay men come together (Yamamoto and Itoh 2006: 240-42).
In Korea the organisations that work specifically on AIDS include the Korean Alliance to Defeat AIDS, the Korean Anti-AIDS Federation, the Salvation Army: Redribbon Centre, and the Republic of Korea National Red Cross. These NGOs publish brochures; organise educational programs; promote educational programs targeted at MSM; and provide services such as automatic telephone information on HIV/AIDS and shelters for people with HIV/AIDS (Yamamoto and Itoh 2006: 166-67).
Japan has more than a hundred NGOs working on AIDS. Most of them started their work after the 1990s. Some of them have specialised skills as their members include specialists such as medical doctors, social workers, nurses and people with HIV/AIDS themselves. The event that helped the NGOs develop is the World Congress on AIDS which was held in Yokohama in 1994. This was the first world congress on AIDS held in the Asian region. At this first world congress to be held in Japan, representatives from NGOs took part in the organising committee alongside the government and overseas NGOs (Yamamoto and Itoh 2006: 138—43).