he he, not surprise at all, when the MM said that to raise retirement age beyond 62 when he is in his 80s and still gainfully employed, his main concern is who is paying for the medical bills of those beyond 62s and not working. i understood that the retirement age was raised when the country was experiencing tight labour supply situation not many years ago.
SINGAPORE: The Health Ministry has warned that Singapore is facing an alarming AIDS epidemic.
To tackle the problem, it is looking at contact tracing and compulsory testing among those who have HIV or AIDS.
During SARS, Tan Tock Seng Hospital was known as SARS Central as it was dedicated to patients with the virus.
But the Health Ministry warns that Tan Tock Seng may well become the AIDS hospital in the next decade, as the number of AIDS cases is increasing at an alarming rate.
In 1993, there were 64 new HIV-positive cases.
In 2001, the figures was 237.
This year, the number is expected to exceed 300.
At this rate, Singapore can expect to have more than a thousand new cases to be diagnosed in the year 2010.
And with Singapore being a global city and Singaporeans travelling around the world, new solutions will have to be used - the same way SARS was stopped and conquered.
Senior Minister of State for Health, Dr Balaji Sadasivan, said: "The contact tracing (for AIDS) has been done but the results have been very poor. We need to see why we are not able to contact trace effectively. We have to find champions in the community to bring this message that we can avert this epidemic among the community."
The Health Ministry points out that the explosion of HIV infection is occurring in two groups - gays and heterosexual men having casual sex outside Singapore.
The Ministry is also considering compulsory screening at border checks for high-risk groups, using blood tests.
"Do a blood test. There is a sero-conversion period but once you are HIV positive, you are HIV positive," said Dr Balaji.
But it warns that the fight against AIDS is not going to be easy.
"Many will oppose public health measures like contact tracing and compulsory testing, arguing that the right of the individual overrides the safety of society. In the end, we must convince these people that public health measures protect everyone and it is better to have living people complaining about their rights than dead people buried with their last rights."
The Action for AIDS group has called for more awareness and education to tackle the problem.
Action for AIDS vice president Brenton Wong said: "Contact tracing is of limited use. In the past, it was not that effective, and border checks are ethically unsound, almost like a punitive measure against those infected already. What is needed is the fundamental question of: after 20 years of the disease, why are people still infected when they already know how it's infected? So we have to put out the message on 100 percent condom use and not to shy away from sensitive issues."
The Health Ministry says that although the number of HIV/AIDS cases here is not as dramatic as some other countries like India, it's still just as dangerous as the disease has crept into the society, without much fanfare, over the last two decades.
Already, WHO estimates there are 4,000 HIV-positive people in Singapore, but less than half of these are diagnosed. - CNA