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SINGAPORE - Mar 18, 2005

Singapore is considering conservative new laws requiring that health workers report sexual partners of those who test positive for HIV.

The Minister of State for Health, Balaji Sadasivan, said that the government's Communicable Disease Centre (CDC) is currently "working blindfolded."

Balaji took heat last week when he pointed an accusing finger at Fridae's annual Nation event, a private dance circuit party that serves as Singapore's de facto gay pride event, claiming that it was a factor in the sharp rise in new HIV infections in Singapore. He said that the 2004 party, attended by 8,000 people, could have allowed “gays from high prevalence societies to fraternize with local gay men, seeding the infection in the local community.”

Balaji failed to report that Singapore officials had banned condoms from being distributed by health care workers attending the party and that the government has consistantly overlooked MSM (men who have sex with men) in their AIDS prevention campaigns in large part because Singapore still maintains antique colonial sodomy laws.

Blaming foreigners and gays for spreading HIV is a dangerous "paper bag over the head" diversion that only has exacerbated the problem elsewhere in the world, notably in the US, Japan and China.

"There should be more discussion on transmission trends in an objective and non-discriminatory manner. We should also be working with the [gay] community rather than against it," said Roger Winder, of Singapore's Action For Aids (AFA).

311 Singaporeans tested newly positive for HIV in 2004, a 28 percent rise from 2003. 90 percent of these were men, and one third of these were self-identified gays.

Meanwhile, Phuket Island inThailand is preparing for its 6th annual Gay Festival in April and has extended a welcome to Singapore's gay community. A festival spokeman said, "Here in Thailand the health authorities work together with the gay community, assuring that the best HIV prevention is through information and cooperation."

Phuket's gay pride festival, one of three such annual events in Thailand, is attended by tens of thousands of tourists each year.

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