SINGAPORE: Advocacy group Action for AIDS (AfA) says more people are coming forward to be tested anonymously for HIV.
The group said 1,368 people have been tested anonymously for HIV at its mobile van for the past 11 months.
The mobile van started conducting such tests in December 2011. Seven have tested positive for HIV so far.
It added that its Anonymous Test Site, located in a clinic run by the Department of Sexually Transmitted Infections Control in Kelantan Lane, tested an average of 540 individuals a month for 2012.
More comprehensive blood tests are conducted at this clinic.
A total of 385 new HIV cases were reported among Singapore residents in the first 10 months of 2012.
Of these, only 14 per cent were diagnosed by voluntary HIV screening. Half of these cases were already at a late stage of infection.
A total of 5,521 Singapore residents have been diagnosed with HIV.
"Stigma and discrimination create an unnecessary barrier to the early detection and treatment of at—risk individuals," said Minister of State for Health Dr Amy Khor.
"Concerned that they may be shunned by their family, rejected by friends, or lose their jobs if they were found to be HIV positive, individuals who practise risky sexual behaviours are afraid of getting a HIV test — to the detriment of their health and to the risk of their sexual partners," she added.
To tackle these issues, Tan Tock Seng Hospital became the first public hospital to launch a HIV stigma and discrimination campaign called ’The Power To Change Is Within You’.
"We feel that there are probably more patients but they haven’t been diagnosed yet. And what this means is a delay in diagnosis. The earlier you come for testing, the earlier you are diagnosed the (earlier) you get your treatment, the better is your prognosis." said Dr Arlene Chua, head of Tan Tock Seng Hospital’s HIV programme.
Large banners, posters and stickers will be displayed around Tan Tock Seng Hospital, the Communicable Disease Centre and clinics. They will include stories and positive experiences of HIV patients and healthcare workers who have worked with these patients.
The aim is to help HIV patients adopt a positive mindset and to highlight to members of the public that HIV patients continue to live normal lives.
The campaign aims to target people living with HIV, healthcare workers and the public.
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