a community of singaporeans

Time to review policies regarding HIV and Aids

Posted by theonlinecitizen on July 23, 2007

This is Leong Sze Hian’s letter to TODAY published on July 23, 2007.

I refer to the article, “One in 350 patients is HIV positive – and they don’t even know it” (July 18). This statistic was from the findings of anonymous tests done on excess blood samples of 3,000 hospital patients this year.

UNAids estimates that 0.3 percent of Singapore’s adult population is infected with the Aids virus, which is about 9,000 people.

As this is much higher than the Ministry Of Health’s own statistics of 2,852 people infected here, I suggest we conduct a comprehensive study and a review of the possible reasons why this has happened.

I believe a primary contributing factor is the reluctance of Singaporeans to go for testing. Why? Because should a person test positive, he or she would have to bear heavy costs to get treatment.

In some Western countries, HIV-positive patients get free treatment, so the fear of financial ruin is minimized.

Here, Medishield excludes Aids.

Without subsidies for treatment, patients should be allowed more liberal access to their own Medisave, as it may make no sense to restrict Medisave withdrawals to a fraction of the costs of treating Aids, since it is a terminal disease.

In countries like Malaysia, its citizens with HIV get free life-prolonging drugs as long as the medicine can be produced locally.

Other reasons why Singaporeans may be unwilling to go for testing include the mandatory reporting of those found to be HIV-positive, notifying spouses and undergoing HIV testing for mothers-to-be.

Unless current policies relating to HIV and Aids are reviewed, the statistics may worsen, as long as people are, in a sense, driven to a state of mind that “it’s better not to know”.

Knowing the truth may be akin to an immediate prolonged life sentence of financial, emotional and physical suffering for the victims and their loved ones.

Read also channelnewsasia’s report: Bill proposed to help medical data collection for research

Read more of Sze Hian’s writings here.


3 Responses to “Time to review policies regarding HIV and Aids”

  1. a kentang said

    I’m not too sure about the arguments here. Whether or not one knows about their HIV status, it is quite likely that one will find out eventually when the immune system starts to fail. So the heavy cost is eventually borne whether or not the HIV status is known while the person still feels healthy.

    I’m not sure, personally, when Retroviral drugs are prescribed for people with HIV, so its possible that the high cost of Retroviral drugs would be a deterrent. On the other hand, other treatments for HIV related diseases that occur due to the failing immune system will have to be borne some time or other even if the HIV status is unknown.

    With regards to the mandatory reporting, it is possible to legally get around that by going to AfA’s anonymous testing sites. I’ll grant that not everyone may be aware of those services though.

    Personally I feel that the strongest deterrent is the Stigma attached to HIV/AIDS, which the letter touches on indirectly. Its not just a matter of other people accepting a HIV positive person, but also that person being able to accept him/her self. Its definitely not something easy to change or address, and is further reaching than just changing economic/health policies, so i’m personally not too optimistic about drastic changes for the better. But every little bit helps, and we can only hope for the best.

  2. quitacet said

    bad economics. free retroviral treatment extended to HIV+ patients comes at a high cost to the taxpayer. it is also a bad incentive for people to be more reckless with their sex lives since they don’t need to pick up the tab. and the more reckless they are, the more HIV they spread, which pushes up the costs of free treatment.

    it is when people bear the full cost of the consequences for their actions do they wake up.

  3. […] also don’t get to use Medishield. So forget about using your CPF which incidentally IS YOUR MONEY to pay for your […]

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