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Singapore is reviewing its HIV disclosure laws after research shows people with low viral loads have little risk of infection

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Chinese HIV test kit.

Chinese HIV test kit. (Photo: Reuters/Thomas Peter)

SINGAPORE – The Ministry of Health (MOH) is considering legislation that would require people infected with HIV (human immunodeficiency virus) to inform their sexual partners of the risk of contracting the virus or face a prison sentence.

The Straits Times reported on Wednesday (December 27) that the ministry said there was “substantially no risk” of transmission among HIV-infected people who are compliant with treatment and maintain stable, undetectable viral loads. The report said that research has revealed that.

“The Ministry of Health is conducting a review of the Infectious Diseases Act (IDA) following the White Paper on Singapore’s COVID-19 response and will take into account the latest scientific evidence when reviewing the section on HIV. “We plan to ensure continued relevance and consistency with the public’s health policy goals,” an MOH spokesperson told ST.

This law was introduced in 1992 to enable partners of people living with HIV to make informed decisions and take the necessary precautions to protect themselves. In 2008, the maximum prison sentence was increased from two years to 10 years, while the range of convictions was also expanded. This now includes people who have reason to believe they have been exposed to the disease. Risk of infection, such as having multiple sex partners.

From 2019 to this month, six people have been sentenced for failing to disclose their HIV status to sexual partners.

Sexual health should be a shared responsibility: experts

Advocacy groups and infectious disease experts believe the current law may be counterproductive to public health goals, ST reported.

In a letter posted on the National Broadsheet’s forum page last month, advocacy groups argued that sexual health should be a shared responsibility between partners, regardless of their HIV status. They also said the law was unnecessary given existing laws outside the IDA that punish deception and serious harm.

Dr Leong Hue Nam, an infectious disease specialist at Mount Elizabeth Novina Hospital, also told ST that he believed the law should be repealed.

“Although very few people would want to intentionally infect others with HIV, everyone should know that they can protect themselves from HIV by using condoms and taking PrEP (pre-exposure prophylaxis). “We should,” he said.

However, Health Minister Ong Ye Kung warned in a parliamentary reply in February that the use of prophylactic drugs is not fully effective and does not protect against other sexually transmitted diseases, so it is an adjunct option for HIV prevention. Was.

Nearly 7,000 people are living with HIV

HIV attacks the immune system and AIDS, which is fatal if untreated, is the final stage of the infection. There is no cure for HIV, but antiretroviral therapy can improve the immune system and suppress the amount of virus in a patient’s body to undetectable levels.

According to the Ministry of Health’s latest update on the HIV/AIDS situation, nearly 7,000 people are living with HIV/AIDS in Singapore. Since 1985, a total of 9,331 people have been diagnosed with HIV/AIDS, with 188 new diagnoses in the first 10 months of 2023.

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