Sex and song in Singapore

The banning of Jason and deMarco from an AIDS-awareness concert is the latest sign that the government’s newly proclaimed focus on HIV prevention remains far from effective

BY Kevin Kumala

March 31 2005 12:00 AM ET

Abstinence-based
sex education is widely preferred to education dealing
with condoms and contraception. The health minister has even
publicly stated that he does not think the only way to
educate people is to “do it in an in-your-face
approach,” crushing any possibilities for more
liberal public health education campaigns to be launched. These dueling priorities—stopping HIV but
also halting safer-sex education—led to the
controversy surrounding the planned HIV-awareness
concert. Was this an “in-your-face,”
condom-dispersing, banana-gloving-demonstration party that
was going to feature two gay guys singing about sex,
drugs, and debauchery? Far from it, say organizers.
“We invited Jason and deMarco because they are
a monogamous couple for the past five years and we wanted to
send forth the message to the gay community that a
monogamous relationship and responsible attitude
toward sex should be the approach to take,”
says Peter Goh, a coordinator from Safehaven. And what better couple to be role models for
young gay Singaporeans, who are becoming more visible
in their community, than Jason and deMarco? Not only
are the two openly gay singers known to be partners of many
years, they have also been applauded for redefining
contemporary spiritual music. “It is
unfortunate that the authorities rejected the
license,” Brenton Wong, a spokesman for Action for
AIDS, told Reuters. “These people had good
intentions, they wanted to do something for their
community and help us as well as give funds to our
prevention efforts.” Instead of promoting a more open, educated, and
tolerant society, Singaporean officials seem to be
doing the opposite. In its effort to reinvent itself
as a technologically modern and socially sophisticated
society, Singapore seems to be taking a wrong turn in STD
prevention methods. Although it has one of the lowest
rates of HIV infection in Asia, Singapore can learn
some things from nations that are more experienced in
dealing with HIV prevention. Kicking out
positive—and I don’t mean
HIV-positive—role models who want to contribute
to AIDS awareness is not one of them.

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