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Singapore informs
spouses of HIV-positive partners

Singapore informs
spouses of HIV-positive partners

Singapore's health ministry has started informing spouses of HIV-positive patients directly about their partners' disease in order to curb the spread of HIV, the ministry said. Letters had been hand-delivered to 41 women since July informing them that their husbands were HIV-positive, the ministry quoted senior minister of state for health Balaji Sadasivan as saying in a speech made on Monday.

A ministry official declined to elaborate on Tuesday, referring questioners to the ministry's Web site for more details.

"Previously, some wives were not aware of their spouse's HIV status and so they were at risk of the HIV infection. Since July this year, we have informed the wife when the infected husband had not informed her of his positive HIV status," Sadasivan said, according to a text of his speech posted on the Web site. "Marriage and the women's own fidelity are not enough to protect them against HIV infection. Most have been infected despite staying faithful to their partners."

The letters advise spouses to get screened for HIV antibodies and give them information about counseling services available at the Communicable Disease Center. The ministry said two of the women who received the notifications had since tested positive for the virus.

In July the Singapore government scrapped a law that required the patient's consent to inform their spouse. The move to sanction breaching patient confidentiality was part of a raft of measures introduced to fight the spread of HIV.

Although the wealthy Southeast Asian city-state has one of Asia's lowest levels of HIV infection, officials there have said they is tightening defenses due to an increase in cases, notably among gays and among heterosexual men who have casual sex. Singapore has recorded a total of 2,584 HIV infections to date, of whom 954 have died, 631 have progressed to an AIDS diagnosis, and 999 show no symptoms. (Reuters)

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