10 Nov 2005

5 HIV-positive blood donors charged in Singapore

The following appears on the Peoples Online Daily, and I have to admit to being rather perplexed. Is it that if someone volunteers to give blood and is not aware that they are HIV positive, that you can be charged with giving false information? Or is it that someone who already knows they are HIV positive has tried to slip under the wire so to speak?

Five blood donors, who had tested positive for the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) when donating blood last year, were charged in court on Wednesday.

According to Channel NewsAsia report, they were charged under the Infectious Diseases Act with making false declarations in the Donor Health Assessment Questionnaire.

Penalties include imprisonment for up to two years or a maximum fine of 20,000 Singapore dollars (about 11,764 US dollars) or both if they are found guilty.

The report added that the five people's blood was not used in any transfusion, which is one of the ways to transmit the deadly disease of Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS).

The Health Ministry was quoted as saying that it has been taking stringent measures to screen blood donors and test donated blood.

There are about 2,500 Singaporeans infected with HIV/AIDS

And yawning bread covers the issue and asks just who would be able to meet the rules laid down regarding donating blood.

Only nuns and monks need apply

One really feels sorry for the 5 guys who were named in the Straits Times and other media (see box on the right). Not only are they facing criminal charges, they have suffered the body blow of being diagnosed as HIV-positive, and their HIV status announced to everybody in Singapore.

How many of their employers will not find some excuse to lay them off, is not worth guessing.

The even sorrier thing is that Singaporeans need this kind of news before we have even the slightest hope of giving a little thought to the absurdities of our society that have created Catch-22 situations for these men. They are, in a sense, sacrificial lambs to our society's wilful blindness to reality.

Two of the 5 men, Ng Choon Siong and Wong Shimin, donated blood last year when they were still serving National Service (NS). As all of us who have gone through NS know, the military is probably the largest single source of blood for our national blood bank. Whole companies of men are "encouraged" to line up and donate blood when the blood transfusion service comes to camp.

Given the peer pressure and the commandant's "encouragement", it is extremely difficult for a closetted gay person to answer the question posed by the blood service, "Have you had sex with another man?" If you say Yes, your mates will wonder what's wrong with you that you are told to get out of the line. You might be effectively outed. Furthermore, it would also suggest that you had lied earlier at enlistment, when the same question would have been asked. After all, if you're in a combat unit, it indicates that you had answered "No" to the question "are you a homosexual?" then.


strom said...

"Four of the five men are alleged to have lied when they declared on the form that they had never had sex with other men. Facing a single charge each under the Infectious Diseases Act are Ng Choon Siong, 21; Suhaidi Abas, 37; and Tan Yee Wee, 30.

The fourth man, 22-year-old Wong Shimin, faces two charges for making false declarations on two occasions, once in 2003 and once last year.It is understood that he did not test positive for the virus at that time.

The fifth man, Lua Bu Chung, 37, is accused of lying about his sexual history on one occasion.

He is said to have lied when he declared that he had not had sex with more than one partner. In the same form, he also allegedly claimed in the previous year he had not had sex with anyone he had known for less than six months."

You missed the above, Prof? I wonder which part of that you didn't read right. Obviously, they had lied about their sexual history and preferred orientation. This is not discrimination, no one pointed a gun at them to donate. So what if you're in NS? Not the most sadistic Sergeant Major or Officer can force you to donate blood - that I know, don't try to bullshit me.

And did you know it's illegal for people who professed to being gay to donate blood anywhere else and in the US too? There's a good reason, scientific ones. But of course you did't know, you didn't do your homework and I bet neither did Yawning Bread. You guys sure know how to beat the ground and rant.

Check them out:


FDA believes that there is scientific justification for screening out all potential donors who are men who have had sex, even once, with another man since 1977, and for screening out the recent (within 12 months) sexual partners of such men. Since 1983, CDC and, the previously mentioned, BPAC have been advising FDA on high-risk categories as a basis for deferral of potential blood donors. Studies have shown that men with a history of male to male sex since 1977 may be infected with HIV and/or may have evidence of a lifestyle that potentially exposes them to HIV. In a recent "HIV/AIDS Surveillance Report" CDC's states that men who have sex with men account for the largest proportion (38%) of new AIDS cases reported in the United States from 1996-1997. Intravenous drug users (23%) are the second highest proportions of reported cases. Studies also show that men with a history of male to male sex since 1977 are also at increased risk of transmitting hepatitis viruses.


You should not give blood if you have AIDS or have ever had a positive HIV test, or if you have done something that puts you at risk for becoming infected with HIV.

You are at risk for getting infected if you:

* have ever used needles to take drugs, steroids, or anything not prescribed by your doctor
* are a male who has had sexual contact with another male, even once, since 1977
* have ever taken money, drugs or other payment for sex since 1977
* have had sexual contact in the past 12 months with anyone described above
* received clotting factor concentrates for a bleeding disorder such as hemophilia
* were born in, or lived in, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Chad, Congo, Equatorial Guinea,Gabon, Niger, or Nigeria, since 1977.
* since 1977, received a blood transfusion or medical treatment with a blood product in any of these countries, or
* had sex with anyone who, since 1977, was born in or lived in any of these countries. Learn more about HIV Group O, and the specific African countries where it is found.

Anonymous said...

A few things come to mind, but I shall mention one. The report of these 5 individuals that have been charged will simply reinforce in the minds of many Singaporeans that gays are a major source of HIV infection; that gays are very promiscuous; and that the kind of sexual activity they engage in has a significant tendency to generate HIV infection. What the commentator (Au Waipang) who has taken issue with this report fails to mention is that in an army battalion the majority of guys are straight, and very many would have also been sexually active (maybe even having multiple sexual partners), yet in their blood donating effort none were detected with tainted blood. That would not have been lost on Singaporeans, but it is a fact that the commentator conveniently does not mention at all. If this report leads to even more homophobia in Singapore, few (except those within the gay community) can complain, and the homophobia won't be just from Christian fundamentalists: it will likely come from all quarters of mainstream Singapore society. On the specific circumstances that led to the individuals donating blood, since the case is now before the courts, it is subjudice, and as such it is not appropriate to comment on it.

strom said...

Soci: Yeah, yeah, so what you gonna write now? Discrimination against Africans or hemophilia?

And yawning bread covers the issue and asks just who would be able to meet the rules laid down regarding donating blood.

Me, my dad, my mom, my brothers, my friends.. but I guess my gay friends are pretty much ok with not donating blood. They're from NYC and they're rational people, ya know. Anyway, people like Alex Au probably can't take a New York fag joke, he'd just run crying to the courts and shouting, "discrimination!" And creating an unnecessary ruckus.

Mr Wang Says So said...

You have to intentionally make false statements in order to be prosecuted for this kind of crime. If you say something which is false but you believed it to be true, then there is no offence.

Why would people lie about things like this when donating blood?

My mother spent part of her career at the Singapore General Hospital Blood Bank. Many years ago, she told me that some people who regularly visit prostitutes etc also often donate their blood regularly. This is because they can get a free blood test for STDs. Yes, they are that irresponsible.

This was in the old days. My mum has retired so I don't know what the situation is like now. I imagine that things must have improved, since the authorities in Singapore started taking these kinds of issues more seriously some years ago - in particular, making those amendments to the Infectious Diseases Act.

Anonymous said...

strom, just shove ur stupid head up ur ass. who says they have to point a gun to force u to donate? they have other means of their own and u're such a piece of shit u obviously DON'T know!!

Anonymous said...

No one has to be forced to do anything. I know of someone who is gay and was asked to donate blood because one of his relatives needed an urgent operation. He simply told his family and the nurses that he suffered from violent allergic reactions to needles stuck into his arm for any length of time and it wouldn't be advisable for him to donate. End of the matter. As simple as that.

Beach-yi said...

Strom is being double standard on most issues, he/she/it uses counter examples from other countries when it suits him/her/it.


Mr Wang Says So said...

Actually, I think Strom really doesn't know.

In the army, there are many things where you THEORETICALLY have a choice, and you THEORETICALLY have certain rights.

In REALITY, in practical terms, you do not have a choice, and it will be impossible for you to exercise your rights.

Anyone who has been in the army will know exactly what I am talking about.

It is very easy to believe that many NSFs unwillingly donate blood. There is no real "choice" to speak of.

And because we are such a homophobic society, it is really not easy for an NSF to say, "I shouldn't donate. Because actually I am gay."

It is not quite the same as saying, "I shouldn't donate. Because I got the flu."

It's not the same. Not the same at all.

patriot said...

For all we know the 5 could be heterosexual male.

Mr Wang Says So said...

Well, what probably happened is that the blood was tested, and then it was found with HIV, and of course they have to locate the guy and tell him he has HIV, but at the same time, they would ask him, "How come you got HIV?" and when questioned, he probably admitted to this and admitted to that and said, "Must be from my boyfriend", and someone then said, "So you lied in your declaration form," and then this leads to one thing, and the next, and the next ...

pleinelune said...

Just because they had sex with men at some point, doesn't mean they are gay. Yes, you heard me: sexual behaviour does not equate sexual orientation. Even if they are, so what? 9 out of 10 AIDS patients are men, and only one-third of them are MSM. The rest are straight, and guess where they get the disease from usually?

About lying about their sexual history: if you are not ready to tell everyone you are gay, in a society obsessed with heteronormality to the point of making it law, would you admit you had sex with men?

clyde said...

I love the way Strom makes and breaks his own arguments all at the same time.

pleinelune said...

Yes, it is rather interesting. Wonder how he does that, I find it rather difficult. :D

Anonymous said...

has anyone wondered why out of 5, 2 made donations in the army?
Is it pure coincidence?

patriot said...

Because the other 3 who don't are signed-on regulars?