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HIV-positive man jailed 2 years for not telling sex partner about infection

SINGAPORE — A 29-year-old Singaporean man was sentenced to two years' jail on Wednesday (Aug 1), for failing to inform his male sex partner that he is infected with the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV).

SINGAPORE — A 29-year-old Singaporean man was sentenced to two years' jail on Wednesday (Aug 1), for failing to inform his male sex partner that he is infected with the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV).

The HIV-positive man and his partner, who cannot be named, had sex five or six times between 2012 and 2013.

Under the Infectious Diseases Act, anyone who is HIV-positive cannot engage in sexual activity unless he or she informs their partner, and the other person voluntarily agrees to the risks involved.

The 29-year-old was convicted of one charge under the Act last November following a three-day trial.

He intends to appeal against his conviction and sentence, and is now out on a S$15,000 bail.

There is no cure for HIV. Without treatment, it can evolve into the most severe stage, the potentially fatal acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (Aids).

Patients with HIV can be treated with anti-retroviral therapy, which suppresses the replication of the virus, delaying the spread of HIV and the onset of Aids. They have to take a combination of HIV medicines every day for the rest of their lives.

One can contract HIV through unprotected sex, sharing injection equipment, contaminated blood transfusions and organ or tissue transplants, or it can be passed from mother to baby.

In their sentencing submissions, the Ministry of Health's prosecuting officer Andre Moses Tan and Deputy Public Prosecutor Peggy Pao said that the two men in this case met online before having sex at the HIV-positive man's house.

They did not use protection on some of the occasions when they engaged in sex acts, and the HIV-positive man did not inform his partner of the risk of contracting the virus. This went against advice from a public health officer from the National Public Health Unit, who testified that she had advised the man to tell his sex partners of his HIV-positive status before having sex.

It is not known when he was diagnosed with having HIV, or what his partner's health condition is now.

Court reports showed that the HIV-positive man's viral load contained 1,626,000 copies of the virus per millitre. This meant that there was a high risk of the virus being passed on to his sex partners.

However, after he sought treatment, his viral load was suppressed to a low-risk load of 121 copies of the virus per millilitre.

While court documents did not state how the case came to light, the partner found out about the man's HIV-positive status in 2015 from an investigating officer.

The partner testified during the trial that if he knew of the man's condition, he would not have had sex with him.

Arguing for a 24-month jail term minimally, the prosecution pointed to the inconsistent use of condoms when the two men had sex with each other.

"While advancements in the treatment of HIV infection via anti-retroviral therapy mean that it is no longer the death sentence it used to be, HIV infection is an incurable, serious and life-changing disease, which still could result in fatality," the prosecutors said.

If convicted, HIV-positive people who fail to inform their partners about their condition before having sex can be jailed for up to 10 years and fined up to S$50,000.

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