Fri, December 02, 2011
World > Asia-Pacific > 2011 World AIDS Day

Better to bring HIV testing services to community, activist says

2011-12-01 15:50:04 GMT2011-12-01 23:50:04(Beijing Time)  Xinhua English

SINGAPORE, Dec. 1 (Xinhua) -- It is better to bring HIV (human immunodeficiency virus) testing services to the community instead of asking members of the public to go to the clinics to take tests, an activist said on Thursday.

Speaking on the sidelines of "Let's Be Positive about People Living with HIV" in Singapore, Roy Chan, president of local community organization Action for AIDS, said it is important to make HIV testing more accessible as many were reluctant to go to clinics or hospitals.

Action for AIDS organized the activity on Thursday as part of the promotional activities worldwide on the World AIDS Day to raise public awareness about the disease and to eliminate the social stigma.

"HIV is infectious. It is an infection. The patients are human beings in the first place," Chan said.

Chan also said it is important to start the HIV public education in schools instead of doing so at a later stage.

He said the world is getting close to breakthroughs on treatment of AIDS (acquired immunodeficiency syndrome).

Volunteers and local entertainment celebrities wore red ribbons at the ceremony to show their support for the cause. Minister of State for Health Amy Khor released the red balloons to call on the public to be positive towards people living with HIV.

"There is much more to be positive over compared to three decades ago when HIV diagnosis was virtually a death sentence. Today with more than science, HIV is actually manageable," Khor said.

Early testing and diagnosis is the key to successfully containing the spread of the HIV virus, Khor said.

Khor said only one in ten of the 221 new cases reported in the first half of the year was diagnosed as a result of voluntary testing.

Slightly more than half of the cases were found in the process of other medical tests. Still many other, however, were reluctant to take HIV tests, though many clinics offer HIV testing services nowadays in Singapore, including seven that allow patients to be anonymous.

Khor has said recently this is because having an HIV test and finding out that one is positive opens the door to many issues -- a key challenge of which is coping with the stigma and discrimination which often accompany the disease.

Khor called for efforts to reduce HIV-related stigma and discrimination.

"Society must play a bigger part in breaking down the barriers to HIV testing. People with HIV have lost their jobs and the much- needed social support as a result of their diagnosis. Such occurrences should not happen," she said.

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