HIV and AIDS

With early and effective treatment, people living with HIV can lead lives no different from others.

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What is HIV and AIDS?



HIV stands for Human Immunodeficiency Virus. An HIV infection weakens the body's immune defences by destroying CD4 (T-cell) lymphocytes, which are white blood cells that protect us against attacks by bacteria, viruses and other harmful pathogens. When these white blood cells are destroyed or weakened, they will no longer able to defend the body effectively against infections. This increases the risk of severity of some common diseases and conditions, as well as a higher risk of getting some cancers.

With advancements in science, early and effective treatment can suppress the viral load, allowing a person living with HIV (PLHIV) to lead a life no different from others. If someone infected with HIV does not seek effective treatment early enough, their immune system can become weak. The disease then progresses to a condition called Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome (AIDS). This is the most advanced stage of HIV; it can take up to 10 years to develop into AIDS. Without treatment, people with AIDS can be susceptible to opportunistic infections and become very ill.

HIV/AIDS is one of many sexually transmitted infections (STI). Click here to find out more about other types of STIs.

How does HIV spread?



HIV is transmitted:
  • during unprotected sexual intercourse (vaginal or anal) with an HIV-infected partner
  • through the sharing of contaminated needles and sharps
  • from an infected mother to her baby during pregnancy, at birth, or through breastfeeding
  • by receiving infected blood and blood products (e.g. organs, plasma)
In recent years, about 200-400 new HIV cases are diagnosed every year in Singapore. Sexual transmission remains the main mode of transmission. Visit this link for the latest updates.

HIV does not spread via:
  • shaking hands, hugging or touching
  • saliva, tears or sweat
  • sharing of food or drinks
  • toilet seats
  • touching of common surfaces
  • mosquitoes, ticks or other insects
  • air or water
  • kissing
  • drinking fountains
  • coughing or sneezing
Are men who have sex with men and drug users more likely to get infected with HIV?
In Singapore, almost all HIV infections have been transmitted through sexual intercourse with a person who is infected with HIV and has unknowingly passed it on to their sexual partner.

Anyone who participates in high-risk behaviours such as sexual activity without using a condom, casual / commercial sex, or sex with multiple partners is at risk of becoming infected with HIV. HIV does not discriminate or select who to infect based on a person's gender identity or the genders of those they participate in sexual activity with. In 2020, 37% of all cases were from heterosexual transmission, 48% were from homosexual transmission and 11% were from bisexual transmission.

How can I prevent HIV?



You can protect yourself from HIV by:
  • not engaging in casual sex
  • being faithful to your partner and being honest about your sexual history. If you are both unsure of your HIV status, do go for HIV screening
  • practising safer sex with a condom, especially if you have multiple sex partners
  • always remembering to use a new latex condom during each sexual intercourse, and following the manufacturer's instructions. While not 100% safe, they provide at least 90% protection from HIV
  • avoiding the consumption of alcohol and drugs as these can affect your judgment, causing you to engage in risky sexual behaviour
  • using only clean, sterile needles and choosing a reliable service provider when getting a piercing, tattoo or an injection
  • accepting only HIV-screened blood for blood transfusions
  • asking your doctor about preventive medicines
I may have been exposed to HIV or think my activities may put me at risk of being exposed to HIV in the future. What are some additional ways I can prevent getting infected with HIV?
There are preventive medications that can be used for potential exposure to HIV. Medication taken after exposure is called PEP, or Post-Exposure Prophylaxis, and can reduce the risk of becoming infected with HIV. This medication may be recommended after a rape, needlestick injury (injuries caused by needles that puncture the skin) or if a condom has broken during a high-risk sexual activity.

To learn more about exposure prophylaxis, click here.

How do I know if I have HIV?



Usually, an HIV-infected person may not notice any symptoms. However, some people may experience the following symptoms:
  • tiredness
  • weight loss
  • prolonged fever
  • night sweats
  • skin rash
  • persistent diarrhoea
  • lowered resistance to infections

The only way to be sure of your HIV status is to go for a test. Every adult at the age of 21 years and above should get tested for HIV at least once in their lifetime, which is based on the National HIV Programme HIV Testing Recommendations by the National Centre for Infectious Diseases.

You should get tested if:
  • you have engaged in any sexually risky behaviour in the past, such as having multiple or casual sexual partners, not using condoms consistently, or being serviced by commercial sex workers
  • you are not sure of your partner's sexual history, or when there is a change of your sexual partner
  • you had yourself pierced or tattooed at an unhygienic or unlicensed parlour, or when there is sharing of needles or sharps
  • you had a blood transfusion or an operation performed overseas, where blood testing regulatory requirements may not be stringent

This list is by no means exhaustive. If you feel you may be at risk, getting screened for HIV is the crucial first step to knowing your HIV status. Get yourself tested more frequently (or every 3 to 6 months) if you are engaging in any sexually risky behaviour. Knowing your status enables you to receive treatment early and prevent others from getting infected.

Where can I get tested for HIV?



You can get yourself tested for STIs or HIV/AIDS at most GP (General Practitioner) clinics, polyclinics, and hospitals in Singapore. Most clinics offer routine HIV screening services, while some also offer rapid HIV testing. Rapid HIV tests produce very quick results. In approximately 20 minutes, you may be able to know your HIV status. To learn which clinics offer rapid test services, click here.

If you prefer anonymity, there are clinics in Singapore that offer anonymous HIV rapid tests. No identifiable information will be taken during anonymous testing. Instead, a number not linked to your identity is assigned to the test. This allows one to receive either a negative or a positive test result without revealing their identity. Please see the table below for the list of Anonymous Testing clinics. You can identify them easily by looking out for this icon too:

Name Address / Opening hours
Action For Aids
Anonymous Test Site
DSC Clinic
31 Kelantan Lane #01-16 S(200031)
Tues and Wed | 6.30pm – 8.15pm
Sat 
| 1.30pm –3.15pm
PH & eve of PH | Closed
Anteh Dispensary 1 Lorong 22 Geylang, #01-02 Grandview Suites, S(398664)
Tel: 6744 1809
Mon to Fri | 9am –12pm,
2pm – 5pm,
7pm – 11pm
Sat
| 9am – 12pm,
1pm – 6pm,
7pm – 11pm
Sun
| 1pm – 6pm,
7pm – 11pm
Doctors Clinic & Surgery 305 Woodlands St 31, #01-91, S(730305)
Tel: 6269 1017
Mon to Fri | 8.30am - 12.30pm, 2pm - 4.30pm, 6.30pm - 9pm
Sat and Sun
| 8.30am to 12.30pm
PH
|
Not stated
Dr Jay Medical Centre 115 Killiney Road S(239553)
Tel: 6235 5196
Mon to Fri | 9.30am – 4pm,
6pm – 8.30pm
Sat | 9.30am – 12pm,
6.30pm – 8.30pm
Sun | 6.30pm – 8.30pm
PH | Closed
Dr Soh Family Clinic Blk 966 Jurong West Street 93 #01-221 S(640966)
Tel: 6791 7735
Mon and Tue | 8.30am – 1pm,
2pm – 4.30pm,
7pm – 9pm
Wed and Fri | 8.30am – 1pm,
2pm – 4.30pm
Thurs | 8.30am – 1pm,
7pm – 9pm
Sat | 11.30am – 1pm
Sun | 9am – 1pm
PH | Closed
Dr Tan & Partners 11 Unity Street, Robertson Walk,#02-06/07 S(237995)
Tel: 6238 7810
Mon to Fri | 8am – 9pm
Sat | 9am – 9pm
Sun | 9am – 2pm
PH | Closed
Kensington Family Clinic 14D Kensington Park Road, Serangoon Garden Estate, S(557265)
Tel: 6288 4882
Mon, Wed, Fri | 8.30am - 3pm,
6pm - 9.30pm
Tues, Thurs and Sat | 8.30am - 3pm
Sun and PH | Closed
M Lam Clinic 739 Geylang Road S(389649)
Tel: 6748 1949
Mon to Fri | 9am - 12.30pm,
2pm - 5.30pm
Sat | 9am - 12.30pm
Sun and PH | Closed
Q&M Medical & Aesthetic Clinic
(Tampines Central) Pte. Ltd.
10 Tampines Central 1, #04-18/19, Tampines One, S(529536)
Tel: 6781 3323
Mon to Fri | 9am - 1pm,
2pm - 6pm,
6.30pm - 9pm
Sat and Sun | 9am - 1pm
PH | Closed
Tanjong Pagar Medical Clinic Blk 1 Tanjong Pagar Plaza, #01-06 S(082001)
Tel: 6443 3101
Mon to Fri | 8.30am – 3pm
Sat | 8.30am – 12.30pm
Sun/PH | Closed
(lunch break from 12.30pm – 1pm)
Regardless of where you get tested, be assured that the identities of those who go for HIV screening and those found to be HIV-positive will be kept strictly confidential.

How does HIV testing work?



An HIV infection causes the body to produce antibodies, which is an immunological response by the body to fight the infection. These antibodies can be picked up by HIV tests to indicate the presence of an HIV infection in the person. There are two main ways in which this can be done. Typically, a conventional laboratory-based blood test is administered and the results are made available 2 weeks later.

Since 2007, the Ministry of Health has approved a second method of detecting HIV infections through the use of rapid HIV test kits in clinics for screening. Results of rapid tests can be out in less than 20 minutes. If the rapid test reveals a positive result for HIV, a confirmatory laboratory blood test is required, which involves drawing of a small tube of blood by the doctor.

Currently, there are rapid HIV test kits registered and available at most hospitals and clinics in Singapore.

As with all other screening tests, a positive result needs to be confirmed further by a conventional full blood test, which uses specialised laboratory testing to detect the virus accurately.

The rapid HIV test kits are not currently approved for home use or self-administration in Singapore. The test must be performed and the results interpreted by a trained personnel.


What are the advantages of a rapid HIV test?
The advantages of the rapid HIV test when compared to the conventional blood tests are:
  • No blood sample is needed. A quick needle prick or an oral swab is sufficient
  • The results are known usually within 10-20 minutes, hence the anxiety associated with a long waiting period is avoided

Does a negative result confirm that I am not infected?
Following infection with HIV, it can take up to 3 months for the antibodies to develop before they can be detected by the rapid test kits. A rapid HIV test performed during this 3-month "window period" may not be able to detect an infection. A second test needs to be performed 3 months after the first test to confirm the result.

What happens if the test result is positive?
If the result of the rapid HIV screening test is positive, it could indicate that you have been infected with HIV. You will require a confirmatory blood test to confirm the result.

What if the confirmatory blood test result is positive too?
HIV is treatable and PLHIV can still lead a normal life with treatment. If you need support, there are care and support services available for people living with HIV. To find out more, visit Action for AIDS.

Can HIV be treated?



While there is currently no cure for HIV, there are advancements in medical treatment which have shown that HIV can be suppressed effectively with early and consistent treatment. Knowing your HIV status early allows you to seek treatment and delay the onset of AIDS and further complications.
After being diagnosed, can someone who has been infected with HIV live long?
Yes, with early and effective treatment, people living with HIV can lead lives no different from others.

Although there is no cure for HIV, people living with HIV can be treated with antiretroviral therapy which is very effective at controlling the infection. With consistent treatment, the viral load can be kept low and HIV cannot spread or develop into AIDS.

If you require HIV treatment, subsidies for medicines for HIV treatment are available for eligible Singapore residents.

Living with HIV and HIV stigma



Under the Infectious Diseases Act, it is an offence for people who know their HIV/AIDS positive status to not inform their sexual partners of it before engaging in sexual intercourse.

If you believe you have HIV or AIDS, or are at risk of contracting the virus, you must:
  • take reasonable precautions to protect your sexual partner (e.g. by using condoms)
  • go for HIV testing to confirm that you are HIV-negative
  • inform your partner of your status and the risk of contracting HIV
How can I do my part to support those living with HIV or may be at risk of HIV?
How can I talk about HIV in a way that is not discriminatory or stigmatising towards people living with HIV?
The words we use to talk about HIV can have a powerful impact on those living with HIV or those who may be considering getting tested for HIV. Being mindful of what we say and how we talk about HIV and people living with HIV goes a long way in encouraging those at risk to get tested regularly. Avoid probing about how a person got infected as that may be personal and has little value in how they manage living with the virus. They may feel like they are being judged. The focus should be on detecting the infection early and supporting them in their treatment journey to curb the spread of HIV and the impact HIV can have on their health.

Knowing and sharing information to combat misconceptions about how HIV is transmitted helps remove fear and stigma of living and working with someone who is infected with the HIV virus.
Is there any legislation or policies with regards to employment issues relating to HIV/AIDS?
Singapore has no specific employment legislation regarding HIV/AIDS at the workplace. Employment should be based on merit. Candidates should not be discriminated against due to medical conditions including HIV/AIDS. They should be fairly considered based on their ability to do the job.

Watch this video to understand how misconceptions on HIV lead to stigma, discrimination & onward transmission.

Busting some myths about HIV

MYTH
HIV can be transmitted if I share a meal or drink with an HIV-positive person.
BUSTED
HIV cannot be passed on by sharing food, drinks or utensils, or even if the person preparing the food has HIV. This is because HIV is not transmitted through saliva. Even if the food contains traces of HIV-positive blood, heat from cooking and our stomach acids would destroy the virus.
MYTH
Those who share a swimming pool with a person living with HIV are at risk of getting the virus.
BUSTED
HIV is a sensitive virus and is easily destroyed during the water treatment process. Hence, HIV cannot spread via water in the swimming pool.
MYTH
Mosquitoes can transmit HIV.
BUSTED
HIV is not transmitted by mosquitoes, ticks or any other insects. This is because HIV is destroyed in the stomach of mosquitoes. In addition, mosquitoes have two one-way channels i.e. the alimentary channel through which they suck the blood of the people they bite, and the salivary channel through which they inoculate the saliva into the people they bite. Thus, even if a mosquito bites a person with HIV and then bites someone else, it won’t transmit HIV to the next person.
MYTH
HIV is transmitted via air and spreads through sneezing, coughing, and the air conditioning system.
BUSTED
HIV cannot survive long enough to spread through the air. When fluid leaves the body and is exposed to air, it dries up. As drying occurs, the virus, if present, dies and becomes non-infectious. HIV cannot be transmitted through air and droplets.
If you would like to do your part to contribute to destigmatisation efforts, a generic logo is available for use:

Please email us at hpb_mailbox@hpb.gov.sg for more information.






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HIV and AIDS

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