Ignorance can kill you

First Published – 30 Nov 2006

Hence the need to come forward for Aids testing, say activists

THE number of those getting tested for HIV/Aids is rising, thanks in part to anonymous testing and new rapid-testing procedures.

But for the last two to three years, the numbers have averaged about 5,000 a year.

These figures reflect a growing trend in those coming forward to get tested for HIV/Aids. In the 13 years up to October last year, more than 25,000 people have had their tests done.

“We are seeing younger, more educated people coming in for testing, which is good, and more young couples coming as well,” said Mr Jacob-Thambiah. Also encouraging is the fact that more people are also seeking counselling – regardless of their test results – even though information is easily available online.

Dr Chua Thiam Eng, a doctor at Cambridge Clinic – one of two private clinics that conducts anonymous screenings – has also seen the number of patients asking for the test slowly increase over time. A little over half of these are first-time screens.

“Since the pilot project started in June, we have seen about 100 cases. In the first two months we only saw a handful – about five or six a month – but by the third to fourth month we were seeing about 20 to 30 people,” he said.

Attributing the increase in part to increased awareness, Dr Chua also said that anonymous testing has played a role in removing fear, the key barrier to coming forward.

“People overcome this fear by choosing denial: Don’t test, don’t know, no need to worry about it. That is the wrong approach,” he said. “Anonymous testing is a way to encourage people to come forward.”

Anonymous testing means that no personal details – other than profile data such as gender, race, marital status – are required of a testee. One is identified only by the number on the test tube. Rapid-testing methods, either by blood or a mouth swab, which shows results in 15 to 20 minutes, have made anonymous testing possible.

In the past, one’s contact details would have had to be noted down so that he or she could be informed of test results at a later date.

Despite the rise in number of people coming forward, however, the rate of testing is still low in Singapore. Right now, Dr Chua said, number of those known to be HIV-positive is only “the tip of the ice-berg”

Getting tested and knowing one’s HIV status is the only way to help oneself, he added.

“It is not the disease that kills the person, but the fear,” he said. “One cannot overemphasise the importance of testing.”

Agreeing, Mr Jacob-Thambiah said: “Our challenge is to get as many to test and to know their status. Unfortunately, this is not the reality. People need to see the need for a test.”

TEST CENTRES

DSC Clinic (also the Action For Aids Anonymous HIV Testing & Counselling Clinic)
31 Kelantan Lane, #01-16, S200031. Open on Tuesdays (6.30 to 8pm), Wednesdays (6.30 to 8pm) and Saturdays (1.30 to 3.30pm), except on public holidays.

Anteh Dispensary Family Clinic & Surgery
368 Geylang Road.
Tel: 67441809. Open from Monday to Friday (9am to 12pm, 2pm to 5pm), and Saturdays (9am to 12pm). Closed on Sundays and public holidays.

Cambridge Clinic
Block 333, Kreta Ayer Road, #03-27. Tel: 63271252.
Open from Monday to Friday (9am to 4.30pm) and Saturdays (9am to 12.30pm). Closed on Sundays and public holidays.

– TODAY, Sheralyn Tay