Reuters: Singapore tells spouses of patient's HIV status (Dec 6)

Tuesday, December 6, 2005

Singapore tells spouses of patients' HIV status

Posted Tue Dec 6, 2005 8:22pm AEDT

Singapore's Health Ministry has started informing spouses of HIV-positive patients directly about their partners' disease in order to curb the spread of AIDS.

Senior Minister of State for Health Balaji Sadasivan says letters have been hand-delivered to 41 women since July informing them that their husbands are HIV-positive.

"Previously, some wives were not aware of their spouse's HIV status and so they were at risk of the HIV infection," said text of the speech posted on the website.

"Since July this year, we have informed the wife when the infected husband had not informed her of his positive HIV status.

"Marriage and the women's own fidelity are not enough to protect them against HIV infection. Most have been infected despite staying faithful to their partners."

The letters advise spouses to get screened for HIV and give them information about counselling services available at the Communicable Disease Centre.

The ministry says two of the women who received the notifications have since tested positive for the virus.

In July the Singapore Government scrapped a law that required the patient's consent to inform their spouse.

The move to sanction breaching patient confidentiality is part of a raft of measures introduced to fight the spread of AIDS.

Although the wealthy South-East Asian city-state has one of Asia's lowest levels of HIV infection, it has said it is tightening defences due to an increase in cases.

Singapore has recorded a total of 2,584 HIV infections to date, of whom 954 have died, 631 have full-blown AIDS and 999 show no symptoms.

From January to October this year, 198 people were diagnosed with HIV, less than 10 per cent of them women.

In July, the ministry introduced HIV testing as part of the antenatal screening routine for pregnant women.

A pilot project to distribute HIV self-test kits at locations where homosexuals socialise will be soon be launched.

Controversial legislative measures, such as compulsory HIV testing for couples about to marry and criminalising the act of spreading the HIV virus with or without intent, have also been considered but have not been implemented.

- Reuters