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21 August 2008

The Problem With HIV In Singapore

I was chatting with TennisGal when I found out that a common friend was tested HIV positive.

Wayne is gay.

The search is now on to trace the source of the virus and inform the connected parties to get them to go for testing and to identify those who are infected to seek treatment immediately.

The problem with HIV in Singapore is that a huge majority of the people are ill informed of this. We tend to sweep it aside thinking that it won't happen to us and so the lack of urgency to understand it better.

HIV is not really that big a problem. As long as the virus via medication is kept under control, the patient would be able to lead a normal life for a long time. It is only when HIV progresses to AIDS that the issue of the person's mortality comes into question.

What gets my goat are people, with little or not proper knowledge of HIV, treating the infected patients like as if they have the plague or leprosy.

HIV patient is also a person like everyone else and so it is uncalled for to treat them with contempt and disrespect.

HIV can only be transmitted via sexual secretions (unprotected sex) and/or blood (sharing of needles, transfusion, etc) and in the case of Wayne who is a male, the third route of mother passing the virus to the foetus is irrelevant in this particular case.

For now, Wayne's condition is only known to people around him. The Gahmen are not aware yet as the test was done in a private hospital and at present, his employer is also unaware.

Wayne is in a bad situation right now as it is not known if the employer would discriminate against HIV patients. Losing his job would mean a loss of income to sustain his medical expense, which may aggravate HIV to escalate to AIDS in an accelerated fashion. As he is not a Singaporean, notifying the Gahmen may mean instant deportation back to his place of nationality. If he is deported, his job in Singapore is gone and gaining re-employment back home may be a big obstacle as a result of his condition which has to be declared at time of application.

It is in my opinion that the Gahmen stance against HIV patient is very harsh and somewhat inhumane. Rather than showing empathy and giving support, pressing the eject button seems all so easy and convenient.

Deportation is the quickest way of solving the HIV population growth in Singapore as it is in a way a passing of the buck. A swift boot out of the country and it is out of sight, out of mind, other people's problem liao.

Perhaps it is due to the fact that male-male homosexuals are the highest risk, that the Gahmen takes a very tough stance against them. Hence, the people's anger against the Gahmen's hypocrisy of saying that Singapore is moving towards an all encompassing society while vigilantly sweeping them out the door, behind our backs.

Around the same time last year, the big hoohah was a significantly large group of people petitioning the Gahmen to repeal Section 377A of the Penal Code of Singapore where it criminalises consenting sexual intercourse between adult males.

I did not support the cause. Not because I am against male homosexuality but only because homosexual Singaporeans don't know how to take care of themselves. Though it's not fair to make a sweeping statement to say all of them are ignorant but certainly a very large portion to justify the cause for alarm, judging by the rapidly growing statistics.

Before I get any hate mail from the gay community, let me draw a parallel with the case where we banned the sale of chewing gum back in 1992.

The ban of chewing gum was mooted by LKY way back in the mid-1980s where we were seeing chewing gum indiscriminately disposed off everywhere, causing a public nuisance. The last straw came when idiots starting sticking the gum on MRT door sensors, hindering the proper operation of the subway system.
The rationale behind the ban is simple. If you don't know how to dispose of gum properly, then perhaps you don't deserve to chew gum.

Many complain that this strong-arm tactic was way too autocratic but what have we shown to the Gahmen that such draconian measures are not needed?

If you were look at the conditions of the trains in the New York subways and ours, you would realised that the minor inconvenience of no chewing gum does benefit everybody lots in the long run.

Same goes for the Gahmen's attitude towards homosexual males. One may complain about the inhumanity of discriminating people of such orientation and protest the right of the Gahmen to play God.

But ask yourself this. With the booming number of cases in recent years of HIV amongst the male gay community, how do you present a convincing case to the Gahmen that the male gay community is not a problem?

Still, typical of the Gahmen's elitist and scholastic fashion, the current modus operandi is less than acceptable but it does solve the problem quickly in the short run. Problem is that we don't see Gahmen presenting any long term solution such as recognising the problem, supporting the support groups and educating the public.

The spike of HIV cases in recent years is something not to be taken lightly. Perhaps the current approach of the Gahmen is the only way to deal with the rising numbers at such short notice?

Perhaps our only fear is that our Gahmen would take this and extend it to become the country's long term solution?

However, both the chewing gum case and 377A have something in common, both have a sunset intent i.e. both legislation are not meant to be cast in stone. The underlying intent is that until a day where we learn to dispose our gum proper; until a day where homosexual males know how to take care of themselves proper; the ban of chewing gum will be lifted; the Section 377A of the Penal Code of Singapore will be repealed.

Good luck, Wayne. You are still loved as a friend. Regardless.

Image Credit: http://upload.wikimedia.org

- Voxeros

1. Safe Sex Advocate left...
Thursday, 21 August 2008 11:26 pm
How do you inform and educate when you have a law like that that forces people to keep quiet?
The long term solution is to educate and inform and having a law like we have doesn't address the short term problem since it, unlike chewing gum, is not enforced. Asking for it to be enforced would be unthinkable, unworkable, unpractical and most significantly, bad for the economy.
So keeping the law is basically counterproductive in solving the HIV problem.
How about having a law to ban heterosexual sex? Since the majority of HIV infections are through heterosexual contact.
Safe sex, hetero- or homo-sexual is the key, and not a law that bans homosexual sex.


2. Phoenyx left...
Friday, 22 August 2008 1:39 am
I always found it funny when people automatically assume that the gay community is the highest risk group when in fact, proportionately since there are definitely more straight people to gay people, the straight community is at a much higher risk.
So should we ban heterosexual sex activities instead?
How about getting the straight men to stop visiting their HOs all over and coming back to infect their wives(and unborn children)
I find it ironic that you claim that you love Wayne as your friend regardlessly when you practically shove it in our face that he is gay and is HIV+ and that banning homosexual acts would magically make the HIV problem go away.
Yup. I can definitely feel the love coming from you.


3. Deportation is right left...
Friday, 22 August 2008 3:18 am :: http://hansel25.livejournal.com
I have a friend who is a foreigner too and he was deported. When I told my doctor friend, I was quite indignant, like you. But my friend explained that they will eventually get ill, and since they have no income (too ill to work), Singapore government will have to support them through taxpayers' money. The government is protecting its citizens, so I guess it makes sense.


4. JayWalk left...
Friday, 22 August 2008 11:02 am :: 
Safe Sex Advocate: First off, I would like to say again that I am not against homosexual sex. I just said that I did not participate in the campaign calling for the repeal of 377A.

The Gahmen is not perfect and we all know that. Recognising the existence of homosexual relationships has got to be the first step to take before we can even talk about educating the public.

At the moment, it seems like our Gahmen is refusing to take that step but I can only speculate that they are slow on their feet as far as this is concerned. It is never my belief that our Gahmen have the intention to enforce this ban for eternity. Perhaps just not the time yet.

Phoenyx: Perhaps you are right that it would be wrong to further divide the risk into heterosexual groups and homosexual groups. I supposed collectively, if it is unprotected sex with an unfamiliar source, it is a great risk there on its own.

It is my impression that heterosexuals pose a higher risk simply based on sheer numbers. If you have a bigger sample pool then naturally you are going to get a greater number of positives.

I never said banning of homosexual acts is the magic solution to the HIV problem.

I was thinking aloud why the Gahmen is reluctant to repeal 377A. Problem is that this is easier said than done. As many of you out there are for the repeal, there are just as many out there who are against.

Call them bigots ignoramus all you like but it doesn't change the fact that they are entitled to their opinion as much as yours. Say if we were to hold a referendum today and let the people decide if we should repeal 377A or keep it, I can assure you that the results will not be one sided and could go either way.

Last year, all we see and hear are people pushing for the repeal and at the same time we hear nothing from the other side. However, that doesn't mean nobody objects to the repeal.

I say again, I am not against homosexuals in anyway. I just didn't participate in that particular campaign last year.

I was thinking. Ok, so the Gahmen decides to repeal it, then what? Was there a step 2 in place? Besides, do you really think that the law will come down on homosexuals who do it in the privacy behind closed doors?

I would have a big beef with the Gahmen if they enacted the law to ban homosexual acts but in our case, it wasn't. The law was there probably since the British Colonial days.

So perhaps the Gahmen is currently working on that "step 2" as we speak and will repeal 377A when it eventually comes to fruition?

Deportation Is Right: I don't know about you but I just feel deportation is a tad cold and unfeeling. It is as if you are kicking the person when he is already down.

Still, I can see where you are coming from, if Singapore were to play the good Samaritan and take care of all of the patients, then we may unwittingly attract a huge influx of HIV patients who were ejected from their country of residence. So imagine an HIV patient being shipped out from a neighbouring country coz it is cheaper to ship him out to Singapore, then to have to take care of him.


5. Zingular left...
Wednesday, 27 August 2008 9:29 pm
Deportation Is Right/JayWalk:
FYI the "good samaritan" Singapore government do NOT even subsidize the high cost of expensive HIV medications/treatments to local Singapore citizens. Zero subsidy. Zero assistance. Zero sympathy. Zero support. Local HIV+ patients have to bear the entire 100% high costs of their own HIV medications and treatment if they want to stay alive. Where did you get the idea that taxpayers' money are spent on helping local HIV+ foreigners when the government do not even take care of its own HIV+ citizens??? Deportation will never solve nor slow the problems of Singapore's fast growing HIV+ infection rate.


6. JayWalk left...
Thursday, 28 August 2008 11:13 am :: 
Zingular: I said "IF" Singapore were to play the good samaritan. As for the notion that taxpayers' money is used to subsidise HIV patient treatment, I think we will have to wait for "Deportation Is Right" to respond. However, I doubt that is going to happen.

IF Singapore were to NOT deport every foreigner HIV case, that itself is a good samaritan act coz there are patients who have the money for treatment but unable to as the gahmen has already swept them out of the country, before the patients could even reach for the wallet.

Yes, the numbers are fast increasing but to the elite scholars, they are just that. Numbers. They don't care if you have found a cure for it. As long as the numbers are down, that's all that matters.

Unfortunately, we haven't found a cure and so the only way for them to lower the numbers is the remove them from the island and let it be somebody else's problem.

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