Finally, angry doc learns the official definition of 'high-risk' individuals.
PROPOSED AMENDMENTS TO INFECTIOUS DISEASES ACT
Testing leftover samples: Confidentiality preserved
IN THE letter, 'Curbing the spread of HIV: Criminalisation is not the solution' (ST, Oct 18), Mr Ashok Narandran expressed two main concerns over the proposed amendments to the Infectious Diseases Act.
His first concern is that power to acquire leftover patient samples could compromise patient confidentiality.
The Ministry of Health (MOH) would like to assure the public this would not be the case, as the intention here is not to determine the identities of those who could be infected. Rather, this provision is to allow MOH to have aggregated statistical data on the prevalence of a particular infectious disease in Singapore or the level of immunity of the population against emerging infectious diseases which could pose a public-health threat to Singapore. We can then devise appropriate and effective action plans to protect the nation on a timely basis.
His second concern is over what constitutes 'reason to believe that (a person) has been exposed to the risk of contracting HIV or Aids' and whether HIV prevention education and testing are easily accessible.
Activities that expose one to higher chances of contracting HIV or Aids are well-established. These include having unprotected sex with someone infected with HIV or at high risk of being infected with HIV, such as men who have sex with men, sex workers and their clients, or having multiple sex partners with unknown HIV status, or sharing needles to abuse drugs.
The challenge lies in getting individuals who engage in high-risk sexual behaviour to act responsibly by going for regular HIV testing or using condoms for protection when engaging in casual sex.
We therefore agree with Mr Narandran that MOH must step up public education on how HIV infection is transmitted, the risk behaviours and how the infection can be prevented. We have done so and will intensify our efforts.
Confidential HIV testing is widely available at most, if not all, medical clinics. Anonymous HIV testing is also available at three sites in Singapore. Information on where to go for HIV testing is available at the website http://www.hpb.gov.sg/hpb/default.asp?pg_id=1737
Karen Tan (Ms)
Director Corporate Communications
Ministry of Health
angry doc notes that drug abusers are added to the list of *them*, while healthcare workers, who are at an oh-so-high risk of being infected by their patients that we need to subject all male inpatients to an opt-out HIV test so as to protect them, are not.
As angry doc had feared, the ministry has classified all men who have sex with men (MSM) as 'high-risk', choosing to ignore the fact that there are MSM who may not have sex with multiple partners, and that the reason why some MSM, prostitutes and their clients are at higher risk of getting HIV is not because they are MSM, prostitutes, or clients of prostitutes, but that they have "multiple sex partners with unknown HIV status".
It would have been sufficient to classify all those who have "multiple sex partners with unknown HIV status" as 'high-risk' and left it at that, but why waste an opportunity to stigmatise certain groups of people who are not like us while we are at it, right?