Anonymous HIV Testing Numbers on the Rise

First Published  -18 Jul 2008

Tan Hui Leng

huileng@mediacorp.com.sg

AIDS activists have long championed it, the results are bearing their point, and the Ministry of Health (MOH) is clearly warming to the idea of anonymous HIV testing.

At a time when the numbers of newlydiagnosed HIV cases have hit new annual highs for each of the past five years, the bottom line is to encourage more individuals at risk of infection to get tested.

Last year, the number of newly-diagnosed HIV cases hit a record high of 422, up from 357 in 2006.

So, with just two private clinics currently piloting anonymous rapid HIV tests, the MOH has asked other General Practitioners (GPs) whose tests are not anonymous if they would like to join the scheme.

Today understands that at least some of the GPs — more than 70 clinics offer such tests — were sent a letter last month by the MOH asking about their interest.

When contacted, MOH said that as part of its efforts to further encourage those at risk of HIV infections to learn of their status, it is “looking into the expansion of the anonymous HIV testing service to other GP clinics in Singapore”.

“Details will be made available at a later stage when finalised,” said a spokesperson. What is clear is that the latest numbers of people going for anonymous testing is on the rise — by two-and-a-half times from last year.

According to a survey by Rockeby biomed, the official distributor of rapid oral test kit OraQuick, 1,723 did so between July last year and last month, up from 678 in its previous survey.

The percentage of those getting tested the first time rose from 65 to 74 per cent.

The increase could be attributed to awareness generated by the local media, as 60 per cent of survey respondents said that learnt of oral HIV testing from newspapers — double the number before. More nonprofessionals are also coming forward.

“It’s not just the educated who are going for the tests but the message has gone down to the lower-educated,” said Rockeby managing director and chief executive Tan Sze Wee.

The number of singles who underwent HIV testing increased from 60.9 to 68.6 per cent, while the proportion of females increased from nine to 12 per cent. One-third of all patients said they did the tests as it was both anonymous and fast.

The only two approved GP clinics offering the anonymous OraQuick tests are Anteh Dispensary in Geylang and Cambridge Clinic in Chinatown. Of its patients in the survey, 16 tested positive.

Action for Aids’ DSC Clinic at Kelantan Lane also provides anonymous HIV tests, but it uses blood tests. It will pilot the use of the oral test kit later this month.