BT: Catering to the trendy, well-heeled and the gays

Thursday, November 13, 2003

Catering to the trendy, well-heeled-- and the gays:
High tea party at Lincoln Modern targeted at gay and lesbian singles and couples a first

by Andrea Tan and Daniel Buenas
Singapore - Simon Cheong's Lincoln Modern project has broken new ground - for the first time in Singapore, and probably Asia, a property developer is openly targeting its project at the gay community.

Mr Cheong's SC Global and Fridae, which bills itself as Asia's Gay + Lesbian Network, are jointly organising a 'special exclusive viewing' of the Newton condominium for the gay community. Singles and couples in the gay and lesbian community in Asia will be invited to the Sunday high tea party on Nov 23.

Apart from this, a private viewing can also be arranged through marketing agent Colliers International. Owning a piece of Lincoln Modern does not come cheap. The 30-storey, 56 'ultra-modern' units are designed by Chan Soo Khian of SCDA Architects. The two-bedroom units are priced at $1.3-1.5 million while three bedrooms go for $1.4-1.8 million, or an average price tag of $1,100 per square foot. The project was first released at the end of 2000 at just under $1,200 psf average.

There are 33 units left. Commenting on its marketing tack, an SC Global spokesman told BT: 'We have a duty to our shareholders to reach out to all segments of the market and to maximise the sales of our development, and it would include this community.' The Lincoln Modern is targeted at the 'trendy, glamorous and well-heeled urbanite'. Fridae said on its website that strong interest has been recorded by gay and lesbian individuals, expatriates and affluent Singaporeans.

'The Lincoln Modern as a product was conceived as a recognition that singles and couples who want housing that is well designed and fits their expectations of quality and lifestyle,' the SC Global spokesman added. 'We're just trying to reach a very specific segment of the market with this product. There's a very good match here.'

Lincoln Modern is inspired by the late architect Le Corbusier's signature interlocking system and has a six-metre high loft space in the living areas. Are there plans for such future events for other SC Global developments like The Ladyhill and BLVD at Boulevard? 'We have no organised marketing programme to target this community specifically,' the spokesman said. Other developers which have attracted the gay community's attention have been very discreet about their marketing activities.

'We don't particularly target this segment but a lot of the projects that we've done appeal to this group,' said property agent Hampden managing director Michael Ng. 'We do see quite a lot of alternate lifestyle people coming by. It's modern city-living in happening locations and near amenities.'

AFP: Singapore is Asia's new gay capital Singapore

Sunday, September 14, 2003

Singapore is Asia's new gay capital Singapore

Singapore is slowly emerging as Asia's gay entertainment hub, with a slew of gay-friendly clubs, saunas, restaurants and fashion outlets appearing in the city state over the past three years.

The conservative country, better known for the government's tight rein on social values, is now the focus of "enormous buzz and excitement" for Asia's gay community, said Stuart Koe, the chief executive of leading regional gay website

Koe told AFP Singapore's reputation as a shopping haven, combined with a burgeoning club scene and the proliferation of entertainment venues catering for gays contributed to the lure of Singapore. "Gays enjoy the entertainment scene of clubbing and shopping, so Singapore has the potential draw for such tourists," Koe said. "Singapore's previous image was a conservative and strict society where you get caned, you cannot chew gum and jaywalk, but people are now hearing how fun it can be... the momentum is only going to build with positive roll-offs.

"Mainstream tourists will hear about Singapore from gays, and how it is a lot more hip." And although homosexual acts are still outlawed, Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong signalled his government's increasingly tolerant approach to the issue by announcing this year that gays are allowed to work in the civil service.

One event that is fast becoming a signature celebration for gays in Singapore and elsewhere in the region is the Nation party. Held on the eve of the city-state's national day holiday in August, it is increasingly being regarded as Asia's answer to the gay Mardi Gras events in Western countries. Only in its third year, Nation03 attracted 5,000 revellers last month, twice as many as Nation02, including 1,200 foreigners who were mostly from Asian countries. "Those that came to Nation had a good time. They were from places like Taiwan, Japan, Korea and knew about the event through word-of-mouth," Koe said. "Travellers are of the same breed, those who are able to travel have a certain level of disposable income... gays tend to spend more money on their travels and appreciate the finer things of life." There are many gay clubs and bars in Singapore, many of which are in the central business district.

The hottest place to be on Fridays and Saturdays is the Taboo bar, while Sundays have traditionally been gay club nights at Centro, a popular nightclub that supermodel Naomi Campbell visited on a tour here last week. Aside from the nightclubs, Koe said there were about 20 karaoke bars and saunas that catered for gays in Singapore.

While there were some places a few years ago, there are many more now and they operate much more openly, he said. Masters graduate Sam Chan, 28, goes to many of the gay clubs and says that while he and his friends are still conscious of the conservative nature of Singapore's society, they are enjoying the increasing freedom. "Being gay in Singapore is an underground business where things are spread by word of mouth, but with the proliferation of the Internet, you get to know about gay-friendly clubs and restaurants,"

Chan told AFP. He said he has many foreign friends "who think it is getting exciting here" and locals can finally find shops that cater to their needs. "I have (Singaporean) friends who used to have to go to Bangkok to shop for clothes and go clubbing there," Chan said. Koe agreed that Bangkok used to be the undisputed gay capital but said it has lost its shine after Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra clamped down on the entertainment industry with bars being forced to close at 2:00 am. In contrast, the Singapore governnent this year relaxed entertainment laws by expanding the number of bars that are allowed to open 24 hours a day. Koe said mainstream businesses in Singapore were also gradually becoming more open about pitching their products and services to gays, with the pink dollar industry tipped to boom over the next five years. "The pink dollar in Singapore definitely exists. It is not a myth, it is a fact," Koe said, adding there were businesses with 40 percent of clients who were gay.

ST: He's a woman... she's a man--Leslie Lung wrestled with sexual issues all his life.

Monday, August 25, 2003

He's a woman... she's a man--Leslie Lung wrestled with sexual issues all his life.

The ex-transsexual also sold his house and spent $200,000 to produce his own book on sexuality

by Wong Kim Hoh
There is something soft about Mr Leslie Lung. It is evident in the slight sway of his hips as he walks, and the gentle lilt in his voice. 'A lot of people who see me today will think I am effeminate,' the 39-year-old says matter-of-factly over coffee in Holland Village. 'But they should have seen me then.' Then was more than two decades ago, when he wore more than just the bangs which now frame his youthful face. He had long lustrous locks and a wardrobe full of heels, dresses and accessories. The ex-transsexual has thrown the dresses - together with a few skeletons - out of his closet.

Religion, he says, was his saviour. He has abandoned plans for a sex operation he once almost had. And although he admits to still feeling sexually attracted to men, he claims to have been celibate for the past 19 years. His road to self-acceptance has been rocky, but it culminated in a book, one which cost him two years of his life and more than $200,000 from his savings to write, produce and publish. But more about that later. Nineteen years of celibacy, I suggest as gently as I can, is a notion which beggars belief.

Mr Lung, who runs a creative consultancy company, squirms shyly in his seat and lets out a soft laugh. 'Well, I'm really not in any physical relationship with anyone,' he says. 'Chastity is a word we all hate. But I see it as being responsible to myself. I have made a choice and whether I find women or men attractive is irrelevant.' He adds, with a shrug: 'I have a support group to thank. When I get the urge, I talk about it and find resolution and move on.

Sex is so over-rated and yet, the irony is, it is so important.' He should know. He has been struggling with sexual issues all his life. He was born the only son of a pharmaceutical-company manager and a housewife. He has a 43-year-old sister who is a youth worker in Thailand. 'My Dad did a lot of travelling and I grew up deprived, not financially but emotionally,' he says.

In his mellifluously articulated English, he adds that he 'was not predisposed towards games or rough and tumble play' and was often bullied by primary-school mates for being soft. In his secondary 'all-boys missionary school, can guess which one, right?', he was often hauled up for having 'long hair and putting on make-up'. He struggled with himself and with his friends. 'I tried to be more manly, and suppressed my feelings and liking for art, dance - very narrow definitions of what makes a man - but I was miserable. I didn't feel like a man so how was I going to live as one? 'I was already considering a sex change when I was 12 or 13. My disciplinary master referred me to professional help and I actually went through all the proper channels. I saw a social worker, a psychologist; I read a lot of magazines.'

Over three years of counselling and professional diagnoses confirmed what he had long known - he was a transsexual, that is, he felt he was a woman trapped in a man's body. He did not involve his parents at first: 'They knew, I guess, but they never talked about it. They could see what was happening.' By the time he enrolled as a business administration student in a local polytechnic, he already had a closet full of dresses. He decided on the inevitable after graduation in 1984 - sex surgery.

But like a dramatic Hollywood script, he claims to have had an epiphany three days before he was due in the operating theatre - on a Good Friday, as it turned out. 'One of the key thoughts of the Bible is that a man shouldn't put on woman's clothes. I've always thought that ridiculous but suddenly I saw the principle behind the commandment. God is telling us not to do the opposite. Suddenly I knew that the operation would not be right,' he says. He decided to fulfil his national service obligations and confront his fears of more taunting and bullying face-on.

Turning Point
'I could have found a way out of NS because of my circumstances but to do so would be going against every aspect of my decision to be true to myself. I was really trying to discover who I was as a person, and gender was just part of it.' The next turning point came in 1991 when he met Mr Synclair Rogers, an American pastor who came out of transsexualism to become a husband and a father. The latter also started a ministry called Choices In Singapore to help people with sexual issues.

Mr Lung attended Mr Rogers' self-help support group. The people he met inspired him to embark on yet another tumultuous chapter in his life - to be author, producer and publisher of a book. 'The people I met wanted to talk about their sexual issues openly as they found resolution, and I thought it would be timely that such a book - frank, no-holds-barred - be written.' No publisher would touch the project so he wrote and published Freedom Of Choice, a collection of 20 true accounts of people triumphing over sexual struggles.

The project, which was published in 2000, took over seven years. It was a baptism of fire, one which saw him nearly buried under an avalanche of publishing, legal and distribution problems. He had to give up his lucrative design business to do the project full-time, and even sold his Housing Board flat in Dover Road to finance it. The exercise cost him more than $200,000 and a lot of tears: 'I was very mindful of the fact that people would say that I am exploiting people's stories to make a quick buck.' To silence these detractors, he donated all proceeds, amounting to $70,000, to three social-service agencies, from the sale of 500 hardcover copies of the book.

'People who were not gay accused me of promoting a gay lifestyle. Militant gays, on the other hand, accused me of being anti-homosexual,' he says with a sigh. 'But as the title suggests, the book is about freedom of choice. We're free to choose, and we can choose to be free from whatever constrains us. 'And if that means an alternative lifestyle for some people, then power to them,' says the author, who also gives talks on sexuality in secondary schools here.

There have been uplifting moments though. 'When I explained what I was doing to many of my clients, they rallied around me. They gave me props, made contributions, provided me with information,' says Mr Lung who has revived his agency. Its list of clients include Apple Computers, Asia Pacific Breweries and HBO Asia. Ruefully, he admits that he has sold only half of the 7,000 copies of Freedom Of Choice. The lack of publicity did not help; publications avoided reviewing it because of its controversial nature. 'I was in the PR business, I did press releases for my clients but I couldn't get any mileage for my own work. I was so frustrated,' notes Mr Lung, who lives alone in a Normanton Park apartment.

Would he do it all over again? He laughs and says: 'I hate that question because you can't know the answer. You can't live your life again.' There is a quiet dignity about him. He is obviously religious but he does not proselytise. People who do not know him, he says, 'don't know what I am all about. But we need to challenge our notions of sexuality as far as manhood or womanhood is concerned. Are women really from Venus and men from Mars?' He gives his parting shot: 'If you ask me, we're all on Planet Earth. But we are all different, we are who we are. And this is what I am.'

ST: 'Mum asked if I could change ...but how to change something as basic as being gay?'

Sunday, July 13, 2003

'Mum asked if I could change ...but how to change something as basic as being gay?'

Jim Chow, 32 In the light of the Prime Minister's revelation that the Government is employing openly homosexual people, one gay Singaporean tells THERESA TAN about his 'coming out' experience.

When he was nine, Mr Jim Chow remembers watching Taiwanese movie legends Lin Ching-hsia and Chin Han romance each other on the big screen. Then in Primary 3, he would wonder: Ching-hsia's pretty, but why do I find Chin Han attractive too? A couple of years later, while still in primary school, he chanced on Oscar Wilde's The Importance Of Being Earnest. While the play is not about homosexuals, he found the literary classic intriguing enough to want to read up on the author. 'It was then that I found out Wilde was a homosexual, and I identified my feelings as being homosexual ones.'

Unlike the 19th century Irish wit, who was jailed for being gay, Mr Chow, 32, said he has never felt discriminated against in Singapore, except in one instance 'some time back'. He was working out in a gym with his partner, when someone called him a 'faggot', a derogatory term for homosexual.

He is very thankful for Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong's recent revelation that the Government is now more open to employing gay people and that with time, more people would accept them. Out and proud of his sexuality, Mr Chow 'came out' to his mother when he was 18, in his second year of junior college. That was when he started dating. The late nights and long telephone calls got his Cantonese-speaking mother asking him some rather pointed questions. He said: 'My mum would ask why I had so many guy friends calling. I said I had many guy friends.

Over time, the questions got more specific. 'One night, she asked me if I liked guys, and I said yes.' Mrs Chow, who accepts her son's sexuality but declined to be interviewed, could not believe what her second youngest child told her at first. His four siblings are straight. A divorcee with five children, the 50-something Chinese-educated beauty salon owner thought homosexuality was something abhorrent and an illness. Mr Chow said: 'She went through a denial stage, and then there was a 'let's fix it' stage. 'She asked if I could change. She asked what went wrong. She was worried what people would think of me and also her. 'I told her I was sure of my sexual orientation and it was here to stay. I rationalised with her. How could you change something so basic?'

It took her a few months but she accepted that fact and, over time, has met some of his boyfriends. In fact, she once went on a holiday with him and a boyfriend. Now, she has meals at least once a week with him and his partner, a 30-year-old information technology professional. During Chinese New Year festivals and other special occasions, his partner is invited home and is treated as part of the family. He has always been very open about his sexuality with relatives, friends and colleagues, he told The Sunday Times. For example, he said, his friends from school and some of his teachers knew he was gay.

He went to a top boys' school and graduated from university here, but declined to name the schools. He said: 'I never pretended I was straight. I never pretended to have girlfriends. 'Once you get to know people, even in working relationships, eventually they will ask the right questions to find out.' But some of his relatives are too embarrassed to ask him about such matters or broach the subject gingerly. 'During wedding dinners, some relatives ask: When's my turn? I tell them I'm never going to marry and they get the picture.'

Mr Chow, who has worked in five different companies in sales and marketing jobs, said that his colleagues have never been bothered by his sexuality. 'Most people are quite cool about it or they don't care. As long as you perform in your capacity, I don't think they are very concerned about your sexuality. 'And if someone asks point-blank if I'm gay, I tell them point-blank. If they hint at it, I hint right back.' He has no qualms about reaching for his partner's hand in public. 'I'm not very self-conscious in that way,' he said. 'I've other things to think about, like work, paying bills, health.'

An articulate man who loves to read and exercise, he admits he probably has it easier than most of his gay friends. 'Coming out is not a bed of roses for most gay men I know but most of their parents never gave them a really rough time either. Although some parents are in perpetual denial about the issue.' While he feels most straight Singaporeans have been tolerant towards homosexuals, he does not believe the Prime Minister's revelation in an interview in Time magazine, reported on July 4, would result in a flood of gay people coming out of the closet. 'People are still fearful of doing so and dealing with the issue. It takes more than one man in the highest office to change that fear overnight.'

ST: About the 'new' gay tolerance in Singapore

Saturday, July 5, 2003

About the 'new' gay tolerance in Singapore

Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong dropped something of a small bombshell this week when he revealed to Time magazine that the Singapore Government had changed its policy on hiring homosexuals in the civil service. 'In the past, if we know you're gay, we would not employ you,' he said. 'But we just changed this quietly. We know you are. We'll employ you,' he revealed.

The Government does not seem to have adopted quite the same policy as the United States military's 'don't ask, don't tell', but the effect is analogous. Gay people do not have to declare their sexual orientation - nobody in Singapore is required to, actually - but Mr Goh seemed to suggest it would be best if they did, so as to avoid being blackmailed, especially those in sensitive positions. 'Disclose, and we won't bother' would seem to encapsulate the new policy.

This newspaper welcomes the change. As the Prime Minister explained, broader changes in the laws regarding homosexuality will have to await changes in the beliefs and attitudes of what remains, by and large, a conservative society, but this is a step in the right direction. Homosexual acts will still remain an offence - but as everyone knows, these sections of the Criminal Code are not strictly enforced. Singaporeans are not about to witness gay parades or festivals - but as everyone knows, private gatherings of the gay community are not prohibited. And the Government is not going to institute in the near future a strict anti-discrimination policy towards homosexuals - similar, say to anti-discrimination policies on the grounds of race or religion - but as Mr Goh made clear, the Government itself will not discriminate against gays, and large segments of the private sector have long ceased to make an issue of it.

No homosexual in Singapore is starving because of his or her homosexuality; no homosexual is jobless because of his or her sexual orientation. What Singapore has, de facto if not de jure, is a live-and-let-live attitude towards homosexuality. 'So let it evolve,' as Mr Goh put it, 'and in time, the population will understand that some people are born that way. We are born this way and they are born that way, but they are like you and me.' Some American studies have suggested that as much as 10 per cent of any population is homosexual. In all probability - the science on this is not settled - homosexuality is as genetically determined as heterosexuality, or one's height, for that matter.

Ethically and logically, it is as untenable to exclude people on the basis of their sexual orientation as it is to exclude them on the basis of the shape of their noses or the colour of their hair. If it is 'natural' to have snub proboscis as it is to have high ones, it is as 'natural' to be a heterosexual as it is to be a homosexual. There is no one model of the natural; nature is by definition various. Why should anyone be faulted simply for possessing certain traits - of gender, race, sexual orientation, or inherited disability, or even body type - over which they had no control? 'Blaming' someone for being homosexual is equivalent to faulting that person for simply existing. But this is not a position that everyone would agree with. Many religions - or more precisely, segments of many religions - explicitly prohibit homosexuality.

These views are sincerely held, and no society, not even avowedly secular ones like the US, can ignore them. If Western Europe, Canada and Australia are any indication, attitudes towards homosexuality will change in the long term. But the process cannot be forced.

IHT: Quietly, Singapore lifts its ban on hiring gays

By Wayne Arnold

SINGAPORE:: With its export-driven economy winding down, Singapore's government has quietly lifted restrictions on hiring homosexuals as part of a broader effort to shake the city-state's repressive reputation and foster the kind of lifestyles common to cities whose entrepreneurial dynamism Singapore would like to emulate.

Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong initially divulged the policy in an interview with Time magazine's Asia edition, excerpts of which were published this week in the magazine's July 7 issue and carried by news organizations here Friday.

"In the past, if we know you're gay, we would not employ you, but we just changed this quietly," Goh told his interviewer, according to a transcript obtained from Singapore authorities.

Singapore has a vibrant gay and lesbian community. But gay sex is illegal and the government has yet to officially recognize any organization for homosexuals. Despite a proliferation of bars and saunas catering to the gay community, therefore, homosexuality still remains largely taboo.

Books and films with homosexual themes are banned. When HBO airs its "Six Feet Under" television series here, most scenes dealing with the homosexuality of one of the main characters are excised.

"It's a good, tiny step forward," said Russell Heng, a fellow at the government-run Institute of Southeast Asian Studies and a co-founder of a local gay support group, People Like Us. "The leaders of this country are very sensible and they are cosmopolitan. And so I think that basically there is an awareness there that you've got to allow for diversity."

Goh said the government's policies reflected the conservatism of the majority of its constituents. In addition to a traditionally Confucian ethnic Chinese minority, Singapore also has a sizable Muslim Malay minority whose religion condemns homosexuality.

Goh said it was because of this remaining conservatism that the government did not amend the law against gay sex.

But he said that attitudes were evolving and that the government was becoming more open to homosexuals.

Gay people have long worked within Singapore's civil service, although apparently not openly.

Goh indicated that the government's new policy was to allow homosexuals to occupy even "sensitive positions" in the civil service provided they disclosed their sexual preference.

"If you're discovered by somebody else, then he can blackmail you," he said. "You have to openly declare and people know you're gay. Then, you can't be blackmailed."

Singapore's openness to homosexuality has been evolving for years, as leaders extolled the virtues of diversity and tolerance. Such rhetoric has become routine in speeches designed to convince the local population of the need for so-called "foreign talent."

Though they may fear that foreigners will take the best jobs, Singaporeans are told that overseas professionals are essential to introducing new skills to Singapore's economy.

Economic prosperity has cost Singapore much of the manufacturing competitiveness that was crucial for its success. China's seemingly inexorable rise as a manufacturing base for high-tech goods has further hurt Singapore.

But as Singapore chased the tech boom in the late 1990s and, more recently, biotechnology, it discovered to its dismay that years of authoritarian rule have largely extinguished the average Singaporeans willingness to take risks, to be entrepreneurial.

Official hope that foreign professionals will, in addition to investment, trade and technology, breathe the entrepreneurial spirit back into Singapore.

Recent efforts to reinvent Singapore's economic structure, therefore, have also included an emphasis on making Singapore a lifestyle capital.

Censorship rules have been eased, if not eliminated. The same government that banned the importation of chewing gum and Cosmopolitan magazine has become a booster for such ephemeral civic qualities as courtesy, spontaneity, creativity and fun.

Still, as recently as 2000, the government rejected an application by People Like Us to hold a forum on gays in Singapore. And in his interview with Time, Goh said that the government would still not allow a gay parade.

But Goh also seemed to signal that further changes were to come.

"So let it evolve and in time to come, the population will understand that some people are born that way," he said in the Time interview. "We are born this way and they are born that way but they are like you and me."

BBC News: Singapore eases gay ban

Friday, July 4, 2003

Singapore eases gay ban
Singapore has begun employing homosexuals within the government, in a reversal of its previous policy, the prime minister has told an American magazine.

Gay people are now allowed to work in "certain positions in government", Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong said in an interview with Time magazine, excerpts of which were released by his office.

"In the past, if we know you're gay, we would not employ you but we just changed this quietly," he told the magazine.

However he said that homosexual acts would remain illegal in the country.

Conservative pressure

Mr Goh says gay people will have to declare their sexual orientation in job application forms.

He said the requirement was for the applicants' own protection.

"If you are working in a sensitive position and you're trying to hide your sexual preferences and instinct... if you're discovered by somebody else, then he can blackmail you," he said.

It is not clear when this new policy was introduced, and Mr Goh did not say what jobs homosexuals could take.

Mr Goh also said that, although the government had relaxed its stance with regard to government jobs, Singapore would still not consider decriminalising homosexuality.

He said this was due to pressure from religious groups, and from a majority of Singaporeans.

"The heartlanders are still conservative. You can call it double-standard," he said.

"And for the Muslims, it's religion, it's not the law. Islam openly says the religion is against gay practice."

'Relaxed attitude'

Gay rights groups have responded with cautious optimism to the announcement.

Russell Heng, a researcher and founding member of People Like Us, a gay support group, told Singapore's Straits Times newspaper he hoped for more dialogue with the government.

"We need to have less hang-ups about discussing this issue," he said.

Time magazine also said the Singapore Government was relaxing its attitudes towards gays in an attempt to attract foreign professionals, and to keep talented locals working in the state.

It also said that gay saunas and bars had also emerged in some of Singapore's neighbourhoods.

AFP: Singapore firm claims cure for HIV, but told to hold tests

Tuesday, January 21, 2003

Singapore firm claims cure for HIV, but told to hold tests

January 21 2003

A Singaporean pharmaceutical firm specialising in traditional Chinese medicine said today that it was ready to test and market pills that can cure the virus that causes AIDS.

Richard Ong, managing director of Herose Pharma International, said trials conducted on AIDS patients in Cambodia five years ago using pills originally designed for skin disorders yielded positive results.

"We did some testing on AIDS patients in Cambodia in 1998," Ong told AFP.

"We found that it is positive ... the patients experienced recovery in their conditions," he said.

But health officials in the city-state have warned the company to hold off on planned human trials until it gets official permission.

The AIDS sufferers in Cambodia who took part in the testing experienced healthier appetites and became stronger after taking the pills used in treating psoriasis, a skin disorder that causes red scaly patches, Ong said.

The medication was developed by Tang Jianhua, a Chinese doctor, he said.

"It is his heart's desire to cure HIV," Ong said, referring to Human Immuno-deficiency Virus which leads to the deadly Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome.

But the company's attempt to carry out similar trials in Singapore has hit a glitch as it does not yet have approval from health authorities.

The company, which placed advertisements earlier this month asking HIV-positive volunteers to participate in a trial, has been ordered by the Health Sciences Authority (HSA) to stop doing so, Ong said.

"We really do not know (it was against the law) as it was just a clinical study," he said.

HSA officials could not be reached for comment but a spokesman was quoted in the Straits Times newspaper today as saying that "the company has not commenced the trial and was only starting to recruit volunteers".

"HSA has ordered the company to stop its advertisement as well as any other recruitment," the spokesman said.

The HSA last year ordered a Chinese-made diet pill to be taken off the market after it was linked to one death and several cases of serious illness.

The Straits Times said local AIDS activists were sceptical of the company's claims.