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November 30, 2014
This news clip was broadcast over Channel News Asia during their "Singapore Tonight" bulletin at 10pm on Saturday, 29 November 2,014.
Early HIV detection vital: Experts
By Nadia Jansen
POSTED: 29 Nov 2,014 18:09
Participants at the Singapore AIDS Conference stressed that early detection continues to play a vital role in fighting HIV-AIDS.
Over 450 people, including local and foreign HIV experts, gathered for the 9th Singapore AIDS Conference on Saturday (Nov 29) to share their knowledge on combating HIV-AIDS.
Organised to commemorate World AIDS Day on Dec 1, participants at the conference stressed that early detection continues to play a vital role in fighting the disease. The Health Ministry says 49 per cent of new HIV cases from the first half of this year are already at a late stage - up from last year's 41 per cent.
Among the attendees at the conference was Avin Tan, who was diagnosed with HIV five years ago. But he's one of the few people open about his condition.
"A lot of the stigma and discrimination stems from misinformation or this irrational fear of how HIV could even spread through central air-con systems or sharing food with someone,” said Tan, who is a manager at Action for AIDS Singapore. “So these are the misconceptions that cause unnecessary fears."
Another issue with stigma is that it stops people from getting tested early. "We have to do away with the stigma,” said Prof Leo Yee Sin, Director, Institute of Infectious Diseases & Epidemiology, Tan Tock Seng Hospital. “That would encourage people who perceive themselves at risk to go for the tests and the treatment."
In the first half of 2,014, Singapore had 155 new cases of HIV. This was a decrease from the 198 in 2,013. But 49 per cent of the cases were already at a late stage - up from last year's 41 per cent.
"Early detection and treatment benefit both persons living with HIV (PLHIV) and their partners,” said Dr Amy Khor, Senior Minister of State for Health. “Studies have shown that treatment involving anti-retroviral (ARV) drugs not only allow PLHIV to lead productive lives, but also decreases the amount of HIV in their body, making them much less likely to pass the virus to others."
Three new anonymous HIV testing clinics were rolled out in 2,014, to meet a growing demand. The total number of anonymous tests more than doubled - from about 5,500 in 2,005 to almost 14,000 in 2,013.
And rapid HIV tests are now offered by more than 60 GP clinics. So if people are ready to be open, there are options available to get tested early, to prevent the virus from taking its toll.