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Thursday 30 October 2008

Singapore: Half of Singaporeans unaware that condoms prevent HIV

Half of the Singapore population are unaware that condoms can prevent HIV transmission, according the results of a survey by the Health Promotion Board. Of greater concern is that those most at risk - aged 18 to 29 - know the least about HIV transmission and how to prevent it.

One wonders how Singapore's safer sex laws passed in April can possibly be legitimate given this startling discovery.

Reports from and the Straits Times below.

Condom Use to Prevent HIV Is Unknown by Half of Singaporeans

By Simeon Bennett

Only 54 percent of those surveyed in the city-state last year knew that condoms can stop the AIDS-causing virus, the study of 1,768 people aged 18 to 69 showed. Almost half also said they wouldn't look after a relative sickened by HIV, the study found.

"These negative attitudes can be a barrier for the at-risk to know their HIV status as they might fear being discriminated against,'' said JoAnn Taylor, deputy director of the board's communicable-disease-education unit, in a statement yesterday.

Singapore, battling to curb an HIV infection rate that has doubled in the past decade, is running art exhibitions and plans pop concerts and a Mandarin-language television program to educate people about HIV prevention, the board said. This year, 345 people have been diagnosed with HIV in Singapore, compared with 316 in the same period last year and 199 in the whole of 1998, according to data on the health ministry's Web site.

About 82 percent of those surveyed knew limiting sex to one partner could help prevent infection, and 75 percent knew abstaining from casual sex could help, according to the latest survey. Those aged 18 to 29 were least informed about ways to prevent infection, the study found.

Sexually transmitted infections including HIV, syphilis and chlamydia among people aged 15 to 24 rose 45 percent to 418 per 100,000 people in Singapore last year from 231 per 100,000 in 1998, Health Minister Khaw Boon Wan said last month.

The government has also strengthened its anti-HIV laws. In April lawmakers passed amendments to laws that make it a crime for a person who doesn't know their HIV status and has "reason to believe'' they may have the virus to have sex without informing a sexual partner or taking "reasonable precautions'' to protect them.

Know how to prevent Aids?
Those aged 18 to 29 ranked lowest in health board's survey on Aids awareness
By April Chong
Oct 17, 2008

YOUNG people aged 18 to 29, who are more likely to be sexually active than any other group, know the least about how to prevent Aids, a new survey has found.

They ranked lowest among the age groups, with just three quarters knowing at least two ways that the Aids virus could be prevented, compared with more than 80 per cent for the other age groups.

Those in the 30 to 49 group were best informed, according to the first survey of its kind conducted by the Health Promotion Board (HPB), which oversees HIV prevention programmes in Singapore.

It polled 1,800 people aged 18 to 69.

The survey also found that only one in two of the population knew that consistent condom use would prevent Aids, though at least three quarters were aware that abstinence and faithfulness to one's partner were other measures.

The survey will be conducted every three years and will help the HPB fill the gaps in its public education programmes.

One such gap is the lack of knowledge among young people, which has grave consequences.

At the Department of STI Control clinic, patients in the 20 to 29 age group make up some 40 per cent of all its cases.

More distressingly, there has been a spike in sexually transmitted infections among the young. Between 1998 and last year, the incidence of such diseases among those aged 15 to 24 rose nearly 45 per cent, from 231 to 418 cases per 100,000 population, Health Minister Khaw Boon Wan told Parliament last month.

'The younger group just wants to have fun and they do not care less about awareness,' said Mr Lionel Lee, executive director of the voluntary organisation Action for Aids.

HPB said it would have new programmes targeted at the younger crowd, such as a concert at Fort Canning Park on Nov 29, to bring home the message of Aids prevention. More details can be found at

On the issue of condom use, it said that the general population may not be aware of its role in HIV prevention because the Board's emphasis to the public has always been on abstinence and faithfulness, said Ms JoAnn Taylor, deputy director of Communicable Disease Education in HPB's Adult Health Division.

But the survey also found that only 22 per cent of those at risk - men who have sex with other men, those with multiple sexual partners, or who engage in casual sex - use condoms consistently during sexual activity.

To combat the spread of Aids and its misconceptions, the Board will be rolling out education strategies in workplaces and in the heartland.

This includes community art exhibitions and a Mandarin drama serial which revolves around the Aids theme. The drama serial, By My Side, will be broadcast on Channel 8 at the end of the month.



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