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.
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
- 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 2022, 37% of all cases were from heterosexual transmission, 51% from homosexual transmission and 4% from bisexual transmission.
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.
Usually, an HIV-infected person may not notice any symptoms. However, some people may experience the following symptoms:
- 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 go for a test. The National HIV Testing Recommendations by the National Centre for Infectious Diseases recommend that every adult at the age of 21 years and above should get tested for HIV at least once in their lifetime regardless of risk factors, and people at higher risk of HIV infection should be tested more frequently.
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.
You can get yourself tested for STIs or HIV/AIDS at most GP (General Practitioner) clinics, polyclinics, Department of the Sexually Transmitted Infections Control (DSC) clinic, 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. HIV self-test kits are also available under the HIV self-testing pilot programme. For more information on the self-test kits, please visit this link.
You can identify clinics offering anonymous
testing easily by looking out for this icon:
List of Anonymous Testing clinics:
|Name||Address / Opening hours|
| Action For Aids
Anonymous Test Site
| DSC Clinic
31 Kelantan Lane #01-16 S(200031)
|Anteh Dispensary|| 1 Lorong 22 Geylang, #01-02 Grandview Suites, S(398664)
Tel: 6744 1809
|Doctors Clinic & Surgery|| 305 Woodlands St 31, #01-91, S(730305)
Tel: 6269 1017
|Dr Jay Medical Centre|| 115 Killiney Road S(239553)
Tel: 6235 5196
|Dr Soh Family Clinic|| Blk 966 Jurong West Street 93 #01-221 S(640966)
Tel: 6791 7735
|Dr Tan & Partners|| 11 Unity Street, Robertson Walk,#02-06/07 S(237995)
Tel: 6238 7810
|Kensington Family Clinic|| 14D Kensington Park Road, Serangoon Garden Estate, S(557265)
Tel: 6288 4882
|M Lam Clinic|| 739 Geylang Road S(389649)
Tel: 6748 1949
| Q&M Medical & Aesthetic Clinic
(Tampines Central) Pte. Ltd.
| 10 Tampines Central 1, #04-18/19, Tampines One, S(529536)
Tel: 6781 3323
|Tanjong Pagar Medical Clinic|| Blk 1 Tanjong Pagar Plaza, #01-06 S(082001)
Tel: 6443 3101
|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.|
A HIV infection results in the presence of antigens (a part of the virus itself) in the blood and also causes the body to produce antibodies (infection-fighting proteins). Both antigens and antibodies can be picked up by HIV tests to indicate the presence of an HIV infection in the person. There are two main ways of which HIV screening can be done:
- A conventional laboratory-based blood test is administered and the results are made available 2 weeks later.
- Approved by the Ministry of Health since 2007, HIV rapid tests are available at most hospitals and clinics. HIV rapid tests are done with blood from a finger prick or with oral fluid, and the results will be ready in 20 minutes.
HIV self-test kits are also available under the HIV self-testing pilot programme. For more information on the self-test kits, please visit this link.
What does a negative HIV test result mean?
A negative result does not necessarily mean you do not have HIV, because of the window period (the time between HIV exposure and when a test can give reliable results).
Different HIV tests have different window periods. Ask your healthcare provider about the window period for the HIV test you are taking.
In general, if you have a negative HIV test result and the last possible HIV exposure was:
- Less than 72 hours ago, you may need post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP);
- Less than 90 days ago, you will need to repeat the HIV test to confirm the result.
If you have a negative test result again after the window period, and have no possible HIV exposure during the time, then you do not have HIV.
To stay HIV negative, take steps to practice HIV prevention methods:
What does a positive HIV test result mean?
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 a healthcare provider. Please repeat a HIV test at a healthcare facility (including anonymous testing sites).
If the confirmatory blood test is also positive, it means you have HIV.
What should I do if I have HIV?
- Go for HIV treatment early. HIV medicine (called antiretroviral therapy or ART) works by keeping the virus under control to manage the condition.
- If taken as prescribed, HIV medicine can suppress the amount of HIV in your blood to a very low level (called undetectable vial load). With an undetectable viral load, people with HIV can live long, healthy lives and have practically no risk of transmitting HIV to their HIV-negative sexual partners.
- Subsidies of HIV medications are available for eligible Singapore residents.
- To find out more about available HIV care services, click here.
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.
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, and be considered fairly based on their abilities.
Workplaces play an integral role in reducing stigma and prejudice towards people living with HIV in Singapore. Without stigma and prejudice, people would be more amenable towards earlier detection and treatment, which in turn would reduce the spread of HIV in the community. Below are some resources that companies can reference in the management of HIV/AIDS related issues at the workplace:
HIV can be transmitted if I share a meal or drink with an HIV-positive person.
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.
Those who share a swimming pool with a person living with HIV are at risk of getting the virus.
HIV is a sensitive virus and is easily destroyed during the water treatment process. Hence, HIV cannot spread via water in the swimming pool.
Mosquitoes can transmit HIV.
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.
HIV is transmitted via air and spreads through sneezing, coughing, and the air conditioning system.
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.