21 Nov 2004

Singapore's gay sex prohibition slammed

(Agencies)China Daily
Updated: 2004-11-21 16:44

A group that promotes AIDS awareness blasted a Singapore law that prohibits gay sex, saying it impedes efforts to educate homosexuals about the dangers of HIV transmission through unsafe sex.

Stuart Koe, head of the Fridae Asian gay and lesbian network, also rejected recent criticism by Singapore's minister of state for health, Balaji Sadasivan, who said the advocacy group Action for AIDS was "not doing enough" to fight the spread of the disease.

"Since gay sex is illegal, how then can any agency or organization in Singapore promote safe sex among men ... without being complicit in abetting illegal activity?" a statement on Fridae's Web site said Sunday.

Singapore, a country of 4 million people, bans gay sex, defining it as "an act of gross indecency" punishable by a maximum of two years in jail. There have been few prosecutions, however.

Koe accused the government of neglecting the threat to gay men by failing to target them in its AIDS awareness campaign.

"Singapore's public health service has systematically ignored and left (gay men) out of all its public health messages," Koe said.

Health ministry officials said they could not respond immediately when contacted Sunday.

Officials have said previously that the campaign against AIDS does not promote condom use to fight the disease out of respect for Singaporeans who hold conservative views about sex.

AIDS activists in Singapore have urged authorities to curb what they say is an "alarming" rise in the number of gay men infected with HIV on the island.

HIV infections among homosexual men in Singapore rose from 12 cases reported in 2000 to 40 cases in 2003, according to health ministry statistics. In the first 10 months of 2004, 77 new HIV cases were reported among homosexual men.

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