Singapore to inform spouses of HIV patients

Singapore, facing a rise in AIDS cases, will make it mandatory for spouses of HIV patients to be informed of their partner’s illness.

The health ministry said it was the first time official sanction was being given to breach patient confidentiality, but the measure was necessary to protect the health of the spouses.

“Doctors have a duty to their patient to maintain confidentiality. They also have a duty to protect the spouse from getting infected,” junior health minister Balaji Sadasivan said in a speech released to local media late on Thursday evening.

The new regulation follows reports earlier this year that a local woman discovered she had contracted HIV when she did blood tests during her pregnancy. Her husband had been diagnosed with AIDS in 2001 but she was unaware he had contracted the disease.

Although Singapore has one of the lowest levels of HIV infection in Asia, the number of new infections hit a record high with 311 cases last year, more than the 242 new cases reported in 2003.

The ministry has since considered introducing a series of legislative measures to halt the spread of the disease, including making it compulsory for pregnant women to be screened for HIV/AIDS, having HIV testing for couples about to marry and criminalising the act of spreading the HIV virus - with or without intent.

In May, a group of AIDS activists began handouts of condoms at ferry terminals at weekends, when hundreds of local men head to nearby Indonesia for a break.

Singapore has recorded a total of 2,386 HIV infections to date, of whom 883 have died, 593 have full-blown AIDS and 910 show no symptoms.

Provided by ArmMed Media
Revision date: June 21, 2011
Last revised: by Andrew G. Epstein, M.D.