Living with HIV in Singapore
If you are a Singaporean, and male, and you went to a public hospital for a twisted ankle, you would be asked to do a HIV test, even though it is completely unrelated to your condition – it’s just screening.
You do have the option to opt out, but, gee, what would the nurse think? More importantly, your wife is sitting beside you. What would she think if you opened your mouth to tell the nurse ‘errr … can don’t want or not?’ ? The nurse would reply ‘ routine testing, nothing one lah, not pain lah, you scared pain ah?’ Your wife would turn to you and say ‘Why, you scared ah? You outside got woman ah? You never do anything wrong, scared what?’
You really don’t want to dig your grave, even though you gave in to pressure from your buddies the last time you guys went to Vietnam for a business trip. But that was a year ago, and you have been fine since. Not like you’re sick and in pain. And she was young, a young teen, couldn’t have had that many men. Oh well, the HIV test would be good too, just to confirm what you already know ie. That you are alright….Right?
The results, unfortunately, are tragic. You do have HIV. In fact, so does your wife. What happens now?
Firstly, you learn that the drugs for HIV in Singapore costs $1000 a month. Plus your wife, that’s $2000. There are no government subsidies at all. Even though you’ve been paying all your taxes all these years. Even though you will continue paying tax. Because it’s your fault , your behavior. Your wife gets no subsidies too. Even though it’s not her fault. Even though she’s always been a faithful wife and a good mother for the required 3 children. You are thankful that your youngest child, was born after you got infected. If your child was HIV positive, your child would not get a single cent of medical help.
Critical Illness private insurance? Doesn’t cover HIV at all. Sorry you’ve been paying so much premiums for nothing. Medishield? No HIV coverage. Medifund? Cannot buy HIV drugs with that. Medisave – sure you can, it’s your own money! And soon there’ll be hardly any!
You ask the doctor, isn’t there any cheap medicine? I don’t need the top quality ones….. I don’t need the “High-end top-of-the-range” medicine, just give me the “ordinary 20-inch” type of drug…. Like what Health Minister say, no need overconsumption……
The doctor explains to you, Well HIV is not like flu or diabetes or illnesses where you have a choice between low end cheap drugs that are subsidized , or high end fancy expensive drugs. For HIV the ONLY options are the expensive one. But Thailand can buy cheaper one, 10 times cheaper, just as good. The government produces the cheap ones for the patients there. So you have to fly to Thailand every 3 months (Singapore Customs let you bring in only 3 months supply) to get drugs for the rest of your life (which can be another 40 yrs , in very good health with the drugs, so actually you can live till 80yrs old, since you’re now only 40. That’s longer than the average life expectancy in Singapore)
Then, as part of your annual medical check up that your company makes you go through, your company learns you are HIV positive. You are fired. Your wife is also fired. There’s no law to protect you from such discrimination. So now you have to pay nearly $2000 for drugs each month or $500 if you get from Thailand, you and your wife have no jobs, and you have 3 children in primary school.
Your relatives don’t ever want to talk to you. They won’t look after your kids when you’re dead. Your church kicks you out because you were immoral. Your neighbours say ‘Luckily euthanasia soon going to be legal, at least they can go and kill themselves if they tah boleh tahan’. Your children have no friends in school because somehow, they found out.
Everybody thinks it’s your fault, you deserve it. And you kinda agree. You have been faithful all along, but that one time, just one time, all your colleagues, including your boss went there, you bo pian, so you go along, and had that girl. Why other people also do the same thing, why you kenna? Why only you get punish? Then your wife leh? Also kenna punish. Other people also have STI, have pregnancy scares, but that’s all. Why you must get AIDS and suffer all this?
More importantly, how now? What can you do to even live?
This is not just a true story. This are MANY true stories, that happen in Singapore.
Added on the 2nd December : Please support treatment subsidies at this ChannelNewsAsia Poll (hopefully the govt will get the message!!!) http://www.channelnewsasia.com/polls/commentform.php?id=168
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