HIV Laws in Singapore – Disclosure and Immigration
Many people are still concerned about the laws in Singapore with regards to HIV.
Laws pertaining to HIV are governed under The Infectious Diseases Act (IDA) which has been amended multiple times since HIV was discovered.
The spirit of this law is really 2 pronged:
- To protect public health
- To protect the identify of people living with HIV
Yes, Number 2 is hard to believe especially in Singapore but it is true.
Let us look at this is more detail.
1. To protect public health
Law: The IDA requires a person living with HIV to undergo counselling and comply with specified precautions and safety measures.
Comment: Honestly, this is really fair enough don’t you think? There are so many misconceptions and so much misunderstanding about HIV out there that people who are diagnosed with it really should understand the facts and myths.
Law: The IDA makes it an offence for a person living with HIV to have sexual intercourse without informing and obtaining consent from the partner.
Comment: Everyone has to agree that this is fair.
Law: The IDA requires that a person who has reason to believe that he/she has, or has been exposed to a significant risk of contracting HIV to take reasonable precautions to protect their sexual partner even is he/she is ignorant of their HIV positive status.
Comment: In other words, if a person engages a sex worker and unknowingly passes HIV to his/her partner, the law deems this an offence. Because the person should logically know that engaging a sex worker puts him/her at risk of HIV. In short, ignorance is not an excuse.
Law: The IDA makes it an offence to donate blood or to do any act which can spread AIDS or HIV to another person.
Comment: Before you donate blood in Singapore you have to fill up a questionnaire. It is an offence under the law to lie in this questionnaire. So even if a person is ignorant of his/her status, forgets to mention a possible exposure in the questionnaire and later on screening his/her donated blood is found to be positive, it is an offence and the person can be charged. Scary huh?
Law: The IDA allows the Director of Medical Services (DMS) to disclose information regarding a person lving with HIV to any medical practitioner, medical staff or any person exposed to a risk of infection from AIDS and HIV.
Comment: This is really to protect medical staff who put themselves at risk in caring for the patients. So the DMS can disclose this information to the relevant parties without the consent of the patient.
2. To protect the identify of people living with HIV
Law: The IDA specifies the conditions that allow persons, receiving information regarding a person living with HIV in the course of their duties under the Act, to divulge such information.
Comment: In other words, anyone who knows of someone’s HIV positive status can only let someone else know under very specific conditions. Namely, if the person to be informed is at risk of HIV. So if a counsellor knows of patient A’s HIV status, he can tell patient A’s surgeon as the surgeon has a right to know to protect himself. In other words, divulging a person’s HIV positive status without a proper reason specified by the IDA is an offence.
Law: The IDA specifies the conditions that allow medical practitioners to divulge information regarding an infected person living with HIV to persons who are at risk of being infected by the patient.
Comment: So even if a doctor knows a person has HIV, he/she cannot go around telling everyone. He/She however is allowed to let people whom are deemed at risk to know. E.g. spouses, sexual partners, fellow doctors taking care of the patient etc. Telling anyone else is an offence.
Law: The IDA prohibits the recipient of information regarding a person living with HIV to disclose such information unless with the approval of the Director of Medical Services.
Comment: In other words anyone who knows of a person’s HIV status cannot go around babbling it to everyone.
Disclosure laws and Anonymous Testing Centres
Law: The IDA requires every medical practitioner who has reason to believe or suspect that any person attended or treated by him is suffering from an infectious disease or is a carrier of that disease shall notify the Director within the prescribed time and in such form or manner as the Director may require.
Comment: All doctors and lab staff are required to inform the Ministry of a person’s HIV positive status within 72 hours of diagnosis. This is why Anonymous Testing Clinics like ours are so special. There is a filed gazette in the Supreme Court of Singapore that excuses us from this clause of the IDA. So when we say that our testing is anonymous, we really mean that it is anonymous. It is legally air-tight.
(1) Any person, not being a citizen of Singapore, who is a member of any of the prohibited classes as defined in subsection (3) or who, in the opinion of the Controller, is a member of any of the prohibited classes, is a prohibited immigrant.
(3) The following persons are members of the prohibited classes:
- any person who is unable to show that he has the means of supporting himself and his dependants (if any) or that he has definite employment awaiting him, or who is likely to become a pauper or a charge on the public;
- any person suffering from mental disorder or being a mental defective, or suffering from a contagious or infectious disease which makes his presence in Singapore dangerous to the community;
- any person suffering from Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome or infected with the Human Immunodeficiency Virus;
Comment: There is no need for HIV testing for person coming into Singapore on a social visit pass and can stay up to 30 days.
Any person applying for a work pass, long term visit pass, employment pass or permanent residence is required to undergo HIV testing.
Any person who is found to be HIV positive will be deported immediately. (In practice they are given 2 weeks which kinda equates to immediately).
Once a person is known HIV positive and captured in the immigration’s database, they will be denied entry into Singapore except for medical treatment. In such a case, he/she will have to fill a prescribed form signed and endorsed by his doctor in Singapore, seek approval from Immigration Authorities and will be allowed to stay no more than 3 days.
How to get into Singapore to see a Doctor if you are HIV +ve
OK so that’s it. I don’t know if this makes you more or less worried but facts are facts.
To end off, I would like to share with you an article on AsiaOne. Such a sad story.
Need more advice?
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About Dr. Tan
Dr. Tan graduated from the National University of Singapore in 2001. His residency was in the two largest public hospitals in Singapore; Tan Tock Seng Hospital and Singapore General Hospital.