Sick, sick people 13
Law and public education should go hand in hand in dealing with HIV
I WRITE in response to the letter by Mr Paul Toh, ' 'Bug chasers' or 'gift givers' will not be let off lightly by the gay community' (ST, Aug 2),
His statement that because of our laws, especially Penal Code Section 377A, the message of 'safe sex' cannot be effectively communicated to those at risk is flawed.
Take the example of heroin drug abuse; laws prohibit its use. Using the same line of argument as Mr Toh's, it would then not be possible to effectively communicate the message 'Do not use drugs'.
However, the message against drug abuse has been effectively communicated to all segments of society. Everyone knows that it is wrong to use drugs and if you are caught you will be punished.
In the United States, 99 per cent of the population understands that you can get HIV through unprotected sex. In the United States' CDC Mortality and Morbidity Weekly Report, June 24, 2005, Issue, a study of 1,767 MSM men showed that one in four men had HIV. The number of MSM men getting HIV continues to rise despite all efforts.
This shows that education and awareness of HIV by itself cannot bring down the infection rates of HIV. If it were so, then data from the US should show falling rates of infection rather than rising rates.
An example of the inadequacy of public education and awareness alone is the phenomenon of 'bug chasing' and 'gift giving' at 'bug parties'.
This reckless behaviour is found among men who engage in anal penetrative coitus. Men, who knowing that they have HIV, yet still engage in unprotected anal penetrative coitus. This practice of having deliberate unprotected anal sex has the potential to cause widespread HIV infection. These men know that it is wrong and yet persist in doing it.
The number of MSM men having HIV in Singapore is about 1 in 20. It is still unacceptably high. However, compared to the US, we have a five times lower rate of infection.
It is our society's stance against such immoral and socially irresponsible behaviour and our laws, especially Penal Code Section 377A, that account for this difference.
Evidence in point:
1) Some time ago, the then Senior Minister of State for Health, Dr S. Balaji, stated that the relaxation of our laws against 'gay' events led to a spike in the number of HIV cases among MSM men from 2003 to 2004.
2) We have the lowest rate of heroin and drug abuse in the world because of our strict laws and tough stance against drug abusers.
Sometimes tough love is needed for those who, despite their being aware of their irresponsible and reckless behaviour, do not want to change.
The law and public education should go hand in hand in dealing with this scourge of HIV.
Dr Alan Chin Yew Liang
angry doc wonders if Dr Chin is trying to confuse the issue, or if he is just confused over the issues at hand.
The spread of HIV in Singapore is neither exclusively by men having sex with men (MSM), nor is it predominantly by men having sex with men.
We recognise the 'wrongness' of knowingly subjecting another person to the risk of a serious infectious disease like HIV, which is why it is an offence to do so under the Infectious Diseases Act, which states that:
Sexual intercourse by person with AIDS or HIV Infection
23. —(1) A person who knows that he has AIDS or HIV Infection shall not have sexual intercourse with another person unless, before the sexual intercourse takes place, the other person —
(a) has been informed of the risk of contracting AIDS or HIV Infection from him; and
(b) has voluntarily agreed to accept that risk.
(2) Any person who contravenes subsection (1) shall be guilty of an offence and shall be liable on conviction to a fine not exceeding $10,000 or to imprisonment for a term not exceeding 2 years or to both.
The law does not discriminate between homosexual and heterosexual intercourse, and indeed if you go on the read the whole section, it does not discriminate based on age, and is in fact that it is meant to cover both heterosexual and homosexual sex (angry doc is just to shy to quote the sections here...).
So why does Dr Chin attribute our lower rate of HIV infection in MSM compared to that of the US to Section 377A, and not Section 23?
More importantly, if it is 'the HIV scourge' Dr Chin is so concerned about, shouldn't he be championing the enforcement of Section 23, which covers HIV-positive persons of all ages and orientation, rather than Section 377A, which covers even MSM who are HIV-negative?