The Day After: Worlds AIDS Day
“Has Singapore done enough in the fight against AIDS?” asked the 5-foot tall reporter from **** sent to conduct an interview with me on World AIDS Day. The answer was clearly, NO. “But are they?” I asked myself. After all if she were to also ask the question of whether Singapore feels itself threatened by the seen ravages of HIV/AIDS, the answer would also be no. Is the country really to be at fault for its seemingly lackluster approach to stigmatization and the other AIDS related issues that has plagued the nearly 1,000 000 new cases of infection in Asia alone this year?
Residents; Health Sector; Government; whose responsibility is it anyway?
In Singapore as across the world, December 1, 2006 saw much media activity about HIV/AIDS perhaps more than had been the case in previous years. I have gotten used to the ill-sustained hype that surrounds December 1st each year. There are often fresh reports on statistics, new findings, plans, efforts…all the usual suspects…then December 2 arrives and sadly too are the return of news items about the newest mall openings or the boom in real estate. I spoke with a few media personnel about the work that ARCHIVE was doing in the region. Not surprisingly, they each appeared less interested in the efforts being underway across the region and wanted to focus more on what was being done here in Singapore. The truth is: Singapore does not yet have the alarming stats of HIV/AIDS cases which Asian giants such as India and China sadly boasts. I have therefore always thought it important that the country can be a great model to the region by adopting more aggressive campaigns both at educational institutions as well as at the workplace. To reiterate one article published by the TODAY newspaper, the country desperately needs a new face to the disease; referring to the last HIV+ advocate, Paddy Chew.
But Singapore had best not rest comfortably on its laurels. A lot can and should be taken from cases such as Russia who saw the number of HIV infections caused by sexual contact dramatically increase from 4% in 2001 to 20% in 2004. This was due largely to insufficient public education about the disease, compounded by allegations of denial by the health ministry.
Singapore does indeed have an important role for health policy in the region. As it pushes forward to position itself as a top tourist destination in South East Asia, the country continues to attract top multinationals and business to site their offices here. The resulting increased number of visitor arrivals and migrant workers (more aptly called expats) will quite obviously be cause for concern. Consequently the public health impact of its’ expat and tourist arrivals will need to be better studied in order to assess just how much is at risk to its citizens as well as the country’s health sector.