Singapore’s Parliament Approves Measure That Addresses Spread of HIV Through Unsafe Sex
Singapore's Parliament on Tuesday approved a bill that would make it a crime for people who have reason to believe that they might be HIV-positive to have sex without informing their partners of the risks, Singapore's Business Times reports (Chen, Business Times, 4/23).
The bill was introduced to address the spread of HIV through activities such as commercial sex work, which the government says has contributed to a substantial increase in the number of HIV cases reported during the past decade. Singapore recorded about one new HIV case per every 10,000 people in 2006, compared with fewer than 0.5 cases per 10,000 people in 1996.
According to the government, the bill also would encourage people to seek HIV testing and to avoid risky behavior. Those who violate the measure could be punished even if they test negative for HIV. Violators could face as much as 10 years in prison and a $50,000 fine. Punishment for those who know they are HIV-positive and decline to tell their partners -- which currently is a crime under a 1992 law -- would be increased to the same level. No one has been prosecuted under the 1992 law. Enforcement of the proposed law would depend on whether the "aggrieved" partner files a complaint and prosecutors can prove that the defendant has a history of risky sexual behavior. United Nations agencies and HIV/AIDS advocates oppose Singapore's proposed measure (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 2/13). As part of the bill, the Ministry of Health would allocate $10 million during the next two years for nongovernmental organizations and health care institutions to provide care and support to people living with the disease, Singapore's Today reports.
Health Minister Khaw Boon Wan told members of Parliament that the aim of the measure is not to persecute. "It is not our intention to go after every" HIV-positive person, Khaw said, adding, "We will only act if there is a complaint from an aggrieved victim and only after a thorough investigation." Responding to questions about what type of person would have "reason to believe" they are practicing high-risk behavior, Khaw said that injection drug users, people who do not practice safer-sex methods, and men who have unprotected sex with commercial sex workers or other men are at high risk. He added that people who practice safer sex by consistently using condoms are not considered at high risk of HIV (Tan, Today, 4/23).