Singapore — A Malaysian man who refused to screen for HIV for years, later tested positive for the condition and may have spread it to others. He received a 3.5-year jail sentence on Thursday, September 5.
Although he suspected that he had been exposed to HIV, he chose not to get tested for the virus after 2008, out of fear that he would lose his status in the country, as he is a permanent resident.
He pleaded guilty to three drug-related charges and two charges under the Infectious Diseases Act.
The Malaysian man, now age 35, had begun to have sexual contact with other men way back in 2003. The person who had reported him to the Ministry of Health (MOH) said that there are at least six other men with whom he had intercourse who were later found to be HIV-positive.
Although both his sexual partners as well as MOH’s National Public Health Unit (NPHU) had reached out to him starting from 2010, informing him that he needed to get tested as he had had sex with someone who tested positive for HIV, he lied to the NPHU, saying that he had gotten tested already and that his latest tests showed that he was negative for the virus.
NPHU reached out to the man, who must remain anonymous due to a gag order from the court, at least three times through 2015, every time he was named as a sexual contact of someone who was positive for HIV.
Still, he refused to get screened for the virus.
He went on to have unprotected sex in July 2013 with a new partner, and did not disclose to him that he was at risk of getting infected with the virus.
Later, this new partner, was also diagnosed with HIV. He claimed that the Malaysian man was the first sexual partner he had after he had tested negative for HIV in 2011.
The hairdresser/fashion designer met another man whom he had sex with in February 2014, and also did not tell the new partner of his HIV risk. When asked about his HIV status, he merely said he would get tested.
The new partner was diagnosed with HIV in August 2014. According to him, the hairdresser/fashion designer was the first man he had sex with after having tested negative the previous March.
The NPHU repeatedly reached out to the man in January 2015, informing him of the risk he was placing others in due to unprotected sex, but the hairdresser/fashion designer refused to answer NPHU.
MOH ordered the man to take the test, and he tested positive for HIV on February 13, 2017.
Over a year later, he was arrested on drug charges, since he had obtained methamphetamine from a drug dealer. He was arrested again in April, and told the police that he had smoked methamphetamine five times since March.
According to Deputy Public Prosecutor Ho Lian-Yi, “The accused is not young. He’s in his 30s … he has his own dealer, he goes to Orchard to specifically buy drugs for his own consumption.”
Prosecution sought a jail sentence of 45 months for the man.
Andre Moses Tan from MOH’s legal office said, “The accused had denied his sexual partners their right to make an informed decision as to whether to proceed with sexual activity with him. In fact, the accused did not even take the simple step of using protection.”
James Ow Yong, the man’s lawyer, had asked for 35 months jail time, since he had no prior convictions. “HIV is, at this point in time, an incurable disease. The accused has to live with the … impact of this disease all his life.”
The accused could have received a jail sentence of up to 10 years, be fined S$50,000, or both, because of his offences under the Infectious Diseases Act. On the drug conviction, he could have paid S$20,000 in fines, received a 10 year jail sentence, or both. -/TISG
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