1960 - 1999

"I do not mind being famous for winning the Miss Universe crown, or as a singer, or a beautiful face, you know? Who wants to be famous for having AIDS? For goodness sake!...I have seen too many AIDS patients die. Most die alone. There is no warmth, no care for them. They are not ready to die- you can see it in their eyes. I told myself I had to do something worthwhile for myself and for the cause- to clear the path for future patients, so that they will not die like that."

– Paddy Chew

Paddy Chew was born on March 29, 1960. Eager to see the world, Chew terminated his studies and became a flight attendant for Singapore Airlines from 1980-1993. During his travels with the airline in the early 1980s, Chew knew nothing about HIV. By the time he discovered safe sex he feared it was already too late. Chew left the airline to work as stage director at the Boom Boom Room, Singapore's first drag cabaret. In 1995, two years after leaving SA, he became quite ill. Hospital workers failed to recognize his oral thrush until Chew made a self diagnosis. After numerous exams, Chew requested an HIV test which came back positive. Rather than be traumatized, his diagnosis empowered him. He travelled to Brussels to begin treatment unavailable in Singapore. In a short time he lost over forty percent of his body weight. Though it hurt him to do so, he left the Boom Boom Room. He was certain there would be repercussions if it was known that a person with AIDS was working there. In December 1998, Chew became the first Singaporean to publicly reveal his HIV-positive status, declaring himself a bisexual man with AIDS during the First National AIDS Conference in Singapore. He wanted to educate the people of his country about the HIV virus. Chew became the face of the disease and a public figure overnight. He decided to dramatize the plight of Singaporean AIDS patients in the one-man autobiographical play Completely With/Out Character which opened in May 1999. During the performance Chew explored living with AIDS. At the close of each performance he undressed and allowed the audience to view his emaciated frame. This was followed by a frank question and answer session. Proceeds from the play were donated to the organization Action for AIDS (AfA). He died from complications of AIDS on August 2, 1999, four months prior to the play’s end. At the funeral everyone was instructed to “dress glam.”


Gender Male

Sexual Orientation Bisexual

Gender Identity Cisgender

Ethnicity Asian/Pacific Rim

Nations Affiliated Singapore

Era/Epoch AIDS Era (1980-present) Information Age (1970-present)

Field(s) of Contribution

Advocacy & Activism


Social Justice


World History


Original Biography Author
Owen Keehnen
Biography Edited By
Carrie Maxwell
Resources Coordination
Carrie Maxwell