ST: Budget for Aids education hits $4m

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Budget for Aids education hits $4m
The Straits Times, Aug 30, 2007

The Health Promotion Board (HPB) will spend $4 million on Aids education this year, an increase on the $3.3 million spent for the year end in March.

This is more than triple the $1.3 million budget it had in 2005.

The spending on Aids education was increased after the Ministry of Health (MOH) corrected a mistake in its 2005 report on the number of new Aids/HIV patients.

The reason for the spike?

The HPB had originally reported 255 new patients. But last September, this number was revised to 317.

With the new figure, the Aids education budget grew as well.

Responding to a Straits Times query, an MOH spokesman explained: 'The additional 62 cases were diagnosed in late 2005 and were retrospectively added to complete the picture.'

The correct number showed that there had been no fall in the number of human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) infections here and, in fact, the upward trend continued unchecked.

Last year, it rose again to 357 new cases, a 13 per cent increase from the previous year. Three in four people infected are heterosexual.

The HPB's stepped-up education efforts include placing advertisements targeted at specific groups, such as the one in The Straits Times last week aimed at young women who indulge in casual sex.

The HPB is also working with the Textile and Fashion Federation to promote more than 50 T-shirts designed by prominent personalities, such as TV actor Adrian Pang and MP Fatimah Lateef, to raise Aids awareness. The T-shirts will be on display at VivoCity from Oct 12 to 21.

Dr Roy Chan, president of the non-governmental association Action For Aids, was not impressed by the new tack: 'Giving information alone is not enough. Many people don't take it seriously because they don't think it applies to them.'

He said this is 'true for any medical condition, and is particularly true for HIV infection'.

People need to be encouraged to take control of their health. The stigma and discrimination against people with the disease also need to change, he added.

Prevention is much more cost-effective than treatment, as the cost of medicine alone comes to about $1,300 a month for each patient. This is on top of any other medical treatment patients may need due to their compromised immune system.

The HPB is focusing its campaign on three groups - teenagers, workers, and men who have sex with other men and illegal prostitutes.

In schools, the HPB runs Aids/HIV education classes for Secondary 3 and JC1 students.