Singapore Records Highest Number of New HIV/AIDS Cases Ever in 2003, Health Ministry Says
Singapore in 2003 recorded the highest number of new HIV/AIDS cases since the country first began reporting cases in 1985, Ministry of Health officials said on Monday, the AP/Long Island Newsday reports. According to the officials, 242 people were diagnosed with HIV/AIDS in 2003, up from the previous high of 237 new cases in 2001. The majority of cases were reported among men, with only 30 new HIV cases reported among women in 2003 (AP/Long Island Newsday, 5/17). Approximately 76% of the cases were attributed to heterosexual contact, with most of those cases the result of "casual sex or sex with prostitutes," according to the health ministry, Reuters reports (Reuters, 5/17). According to the statistics, 16% of the cases occurred among homosexuals, 6% among bisexuals, 2% among injection drug users and one case was recorded as mother-to-child transmission, according to the AP/Newsday (AP/Long Island Newsday, 5/17). Action for AIDS Executive Director Benedict Jacob-Thambiah said, "This is a worrying trend. The average Singaporean on the street is aware of AIDS. Let's not doubt it. They know how it can spread. But most remain complacent" (Reuters, 5/17).
Action for AIDS Vice President Brenton Wong said that the government's refusal to help people pay for antiretroviral drug treatment was "one big factor" in the increasing number of HIV/AIDS cases in the country, Agence France-Presse reports. He said that many people do not undergo HIV testing because they "know that the government won't subsidize the cost of medication." When asked why the government does not help fund antiretroviral treatment, health ministry officials said in an e-mail that the medication is "nonstandard," according to Agence France-Presse. The officials added that HIV-positive people seeking treatment could obtain subsidized inpatient and outpatient care, Agence France-Presse reports. Wong said that the government's "inaction" has generated a "general lack of urgency" about HIV/AIDS in the country, especially concerning education about the disease, according to Agence France-Presse. He added, "There is no ongoing dialogue and there are not enough discussions. Many people think this is just somebody else's problem. ... We call ourselves a developed country but we're not taking care of people the way a developed country should" (Agence France-Presse, 5/17).