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     FrontPage Edition: Fri 7 Nov 2008

More clinics to offer anonymous HIV testing


Expansion of Anonymous HIV Testing Programme in Singapore
The Ministry of Health will increase the number of anonymous HIV test sites in Singapore from the current three - Anteh Dispensary, Cambridge Clinic, and the Action for AIDS Anonymous HIV Testing and Counseling Clinic - to seven, with effect from 1 November 2008. Details of the new test sites are available at Annex.
This move is to further encourage individuals at risk of HIV infection to go for testing and to do so early. We recognise that there may be individuals who would like to be tested for HIV but who would prefer not to be identified to healthcare personnel. Hence, anonymous HIV tests provide an alternative to conventional HIV testing.
We are encouraged by the increase in the number of people going for anonymous HIV tests in Singapore. The number of anonymous HIV tests carried out has increased from 5,639 in 2005 to 8,251 in 2007.
The overall rate of positive cases detected in anonymous testing has ranged from 1.45% in 2005, to 1.91% in 2006 and 1.59% in 2007. The percentage of first-timers going for anonymous HIV testing has also risen from 65% (from Jun 06 – Jun 07) to 74% (from Jul 07 – Jun 08) at the two GP clinics.
Rise in HIV cases
The number of HIV cases in Singapore has continued to increase over the years, with 423 cases in 2007. In the first 6 months of 2008, 154 HIV/AIDS cases (143 males and 11 females) have been diagnosed. More than half of the new cases which presented in 2007 had late-stage diagnosis (53%). This was similar to the pattern in previous years (58% in 2006).
Studies have shown that individuals who are aware of their HIV-positive status will take steps to protect their partners. Therefore, early testing will help to control the spread of HIV. Early detection and treatment of HIV infection can also help to significantly delay the onset of AIDS, reduce the risk of death, and improve the quality of life.
Anonymous HIV testing
Anonymous HIV Testing will be performed on individuals upon request and who have no signs and symptoms of AIDS. Anonymous HIV testing is carried out on oral fluid or blood from finger prick using rapid HIV test kits registered with the Health Sciences Authority, namely, Orasure Oraquick Rapid HIV-1/2 Antibody Test and Inverness Medical Determine HIV-1/2 Antibody Test respectively. The use of rapid HIV tests will allow results to be ready in approximately 20 minutes. Persons with reactive rapid HIV test results will be asked to provide a venous blood sample for further laboratory-based confirmatory testing.
Pre- and post-test counselling will be provided to all persons who undergo anonymous HIV testing at the clinics. The person will also be given information on the "window period" for HIV infection.
The "window period" refers to the time taken for a HIV-infected person to develop antibodies to the HIV virus. Most people will develop antibodies within 3 months of infection while some may take up to 6 months. During the "window period", an infected person may not show a reactive test on the HIV rapid test or other antibody-based HIV tests which detects the presence of HIV antibodies. Hence, a person would usually be advised by his doctor to be re-tested after the "window period" to confirm his test result if the test was non-reactive and there has been a recent history of high-risk sexual or other exposure. Persons who are found to be HIV-positive will be given appropriate medical advice and counselling.
Public advisory
The most effective way to prevent HIV infection is to remain faithful to one’s spouse/partner and to avoid casual sex and sex with prostitutes. A HIV-infected person looks and feels normal during the early stage of the infection. It is therefore not possible to tell if a person is infected or not by looking at his/her appearance.
Persons engaging in high-risk sexual behaviour, such as having multiple sexual partners, engaging in casual sex or sex with prostitutes, are strongly advised to use condoms to reduce their risk of HIV infection. Condoms should be used consistently and correctly during every sexual encounter. They should also go for regular HIV testing.
It is an offence under the Infectious Diseases (Amendment) Act 2008 if a person who has reason to believe that he has, or has been exposed to a significant risk of contracting HIV/AIDS, does not take reasonable precautions to protect his sexual partner, such as by using condoms, even if he is ignorant of his HIV positive status.
Alternatively, he can go for a HIV test to confirm that he is HIV-negative. Otherwise, he must inform his partner of the risk of contracting HIV from him, leaving the partner to voluntarily accept the risk, if he or she so wishes.
More information about HIV and AIDS can be found at the Health Promotion Board website at

Source: Press Release 30 Oct 2008


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