AFA responds to MOH statements in Straits Times article

First Published: 15 July 2005

Action for AIDS would like to clarify the following issues in relation to the serious allegation that AfA volunteers, including HIV-positive ones, have had sex with clients they were counselling.

(Straits Times, Friday, 15 July 2005) I refer to the article “MOH probing ‘sex with Aids patients’ report”and would like to clarify some of the issues in relation to the serious allegation that AfA volunteers, including HIV-positive ones, have had sex with clients they were counselling.

It seems like the initial allegation in The New Paper (TNP) on Sunday has been further exaggerated to suggest that our volunteers are infecting clients or vice versa.  The interview with the positive volunteer does not indicate in any way that he got infected by anyone he was counselling – in fact, it makes no reference to him engaging in counselling at all.

There is also no mention in the TNP article of positive volunteers infecting clients.  This is a very hurtful allegation as our positive volunteers require great strength, resolve and motivation first come to terms with their diagnosis, and then to offer to help counsel others who may be at risk and/or who test positive.

Volunteers who have contact with clients undergo screening and training.  During both these processes, they are informed of guidelines in relation to their conduct, which include areas such as proper conduct with clients, confidentiality, respect, and responsible personal behaviour.

Volunteers are also monitored from time to time, and in some cases, have to submit reports of online interactions.  We get regular feedback from clients in relation to the services we provide, and thus far the feedback has been overwhelmingly positive.  If there are any complaints, we take them very seriously, investigate and take appropriate action.  We have done so on a number of occasions, but none of these have been in relation to misconduct with clients.

Before the TNP article came out, we have had no complaints or reports about the conduct (sexual or otherwise) of our volunteers, HIV-positive or otherwise, with clients.  I can say with great certainty, having personally interacted with almost all our volunteers, that our volunteers are responsible and committed individuals who have high standards of personal integrity.

I would give little or no credence to unnamed sources seeking to tarnish the reputation of our hardworking and dedicated volunteers by making wild allegations.

We are currently investigating the allegations in the presence of independent observers and will take action if there has indeed been any misconduct, but I am confident that we will find that our volunteers, especially our HIV-positive ones, have not misbehaved, sexually or otherwise, with clients they were counselling.

For more detailed responses to specific allegations in the original TNP article, please go to
AFA debunks allegations made in The New Paper (TNP)

Thank you.