Singapore Ministry of Health Calls on More Physicians To Offer Anonymous Rapid HIV Tests
Singapore's Ministry of Health recently called on more private general practitioners in the country to provide anonymous rapid HIV tests, which currently are available only at two clinics, the Straits Times reports.
According to the health ministry, it has invited 70 physicians to provide anonymous rapid tests in order to expand its network of clinics offering anonymous testing and encourage people at risk of the virus to undergo testing. The two clinics currently offering anonymous rapid tests have reported that they have seen 2.5 times more people come in for the test recently. According to the clinics, 1,723 people underwent anonymous rapid testing between July 2007 and June 2008, compared with 678 who did so between July 2006 and June 2007. Sixteen of the 1,723 people who were tested were diagnosed with HIV (Tan, Straits Times, 7/19).
According to Singapore's Today, the increase in testing could be attributed to HIV/AIDS awareness generated by the local media. About 60% of respondents to a survey by the biomedical company Rockeby, which distributes the test, said they learned of it from newspapers. More nonprofessionals also are coming forward to be tested, Today reports. Tan Sze Wee, Rockeby managing director and chief executive, said, "It's not just the educated who are going for the tests, but the message has gone down to the [less]-educated." In addition, the number of nonmarried individuals and women undergoing testing has increased. One-third of all patients said they went for testing because it was both anonymous and fast, and the percentage of people receiving the test for the first time increased from 65% to 74% (Leng, Today, 7/18).
Wong Tien Hua, a physician at Mutual Healthcare Medical Clinic in Anchorvale who received the health ministry's invitation to provide the test, said making anonymous tests more widely available could remove barriers associated with people finding out about their HIV status, especially for populations involved in high-risk activities. Joyce Liang of Anteh Dispensary, which is one of the two clinics that currently offers the test, said, "It is usually the stress of the wait for results that kills them, figuratively speaking. Here, they had to wait for only 20 minutes. Of course, they have to be counseled post-test."
According to the Times, 422 people in Singapore were diagnosed with HIV last year, up from 357 in 2006. Numbers for this year as of June indicated that 236 people have been diagnosed as HIV-positive (Straits Times, 7/19).