Archive for the 'health and hiv' Category

Penalising the voiceless is cheaper than doing the right thing

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It is early days yet, but it may be possible to glean a gradual, reluctant retreat from dogma on the part of the Singapore government. This pattern is hardly discernible across the board; we only see these small changes in what might be termed the ‘bread and butter’ issues.

Notable straight away is Minister of National Development Khaw Boon Wan’s pledge that about 2,500 two-room flats will be launched for sale this year, and another 5,000 in 2014. Khaw revealed that the launch of 519 two-room flats July 2013, which for the first time allowed purchases by singles — i.e. unmarried, divorced or widowed persons without a “family nucleus” (based on the Housing Development Board’s definition) — attracted applications from 8,800 interested singles. “We expect to see such huge oversubscription for many more [Build-to-Order] exercises,” he said. Continue reading ‘Penalising the voiceless is cheaper than doing the right thing’

Healthcare safety net — improvements long overdue

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In his 2013 National Day Rally speech, Singapore’s equivalent of a State of the Union address, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong devoted considerable attention to our healthcare safety net and the gaps that need mending.

Whilst he sketched out the general direction for how we should proceed, nowhere were there any details. Particularly absent was how much the changes would cost and how the extra costs would be paid for. Perhaps he was leaving it for a public debate — he did say, “we are going to do a public consultation, seek views before we decide on the details of the scheme and it will take a year” — which isn’t a bad thing at all. However, it is quickly apparent that a good part of the cost will be borne, not by general taxation, but from individual (albeit forced) savings. Continue reading ‘Healthcare safety net — improvements long overdue’

Population: Elemental considerations 1

pic_201302_07Several things in the Population White Paper annoy me. Many of them are in the form of unexamined assumptions. The purpose of this article is to take a closer look at one of them.

I feel it is important to take the White Paper apart element by element. As it is, the outrage we see in social media is over the top-line figure of 6.9 million on this island by 2030. However, unless we pick apart the assumptions that the White paper uses, we can’t analytically say what’s so flawed about the 6.9 figure; we can only say we don’t want it.

The element I wish to examine in this essay is the old-age dependency ratio. Continue reading ‘Population: Elemental considerations 1′

The Education Ministry and the abstinence from intelligence

On its website, Singapore’s Ministry of Education says that one of the key messages of its sexuality education curriculum is: “Practise abstinence before marriage, as it is the best protection against sexually transmitted infections (STIs), human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) and unwanted pregnancies.”

Does no one there realise that even after marriage, sex carries the same risks? So why make it sound like sex is so terribly dangerous only to the unmarried? Playing up the risks in such a one-sided way raises a flag of suspicion that some other motive is at work.

No surprise then that there has been much criticism online. Continue reading ‘The Education Ministry and the abstinence from intelligence’

Priorities, priorities

Sometimes, on an ordinary day, minding one’s own business, we cannot help but notice things that make us think beyond our private thoughts and about the wider world. And so it was one evening last month when I visited my father in hospital. I found him bored out of his wits.

“Why don’t you at least turn on the telly?” I asked.

“There’s nothing there.”

I wasn’t going to believe him so easily. So I fiddled with the remote to surf the channels. There were our handful of free-to-air channels (in other words, nothing worth watching), and another 6 or 7 cable channels. With the exception of the Cartoon Network, all the cable channels were Arabic. Three of them are imaged on this page – channels 15, 18 and 14. There were news, drama and even Arabic cartoons. Continue reading ‘Priorities, priorities’

My eyebrows rose thrice, part 3: Hurtful

It was a strange choice of a word, and it jumped out at me. People’s Action Party member of parliament Vikram Nair (right) said he found it “hurtful” that Chen Show Mao (Workers’ Party) had implied that the PAP government had not done enough for vulnerable groups.

In my mind’s eye, I instantly saw a picture of a grown man running to a corner to cry. His feelings had been hurt.

What never-never-land does the ruling party live in? Do PAP members of parliament seriously expect opposition members to concede that the government had done ENOUGH for whatever section of the population they happen to be discussing at that moment? Is that the opposition’s role in politics?

Continue reading ‘My eyebrows rose thrice, part 3: Hurtful’

Friday assaults

I took someone to the Emergency department of Khoo Teck Puat Hospital on Friday, 25 November 2011. We arrived at a little after 1 p.m. and after much waiting for consultation, injections, x-rays and consultation again, we were more or less done by about 5:30 p.m. The doctor advised that the patient should be warded for at least one night for observation.

I do not know if the doctor noticed that her own hospital staff had put up a huge sign in the Emergency department itself, sometime in the morning, before we arrived. Yup, it’s the picture above, with the words “Our wards are full.”

Since the patient was independent enough to wait for a bed himself, I left at about six. At 8:30 p.m. he phoned me, saying the nurse had just told him there was no likelihood of a bed freeing up tonight. They were going to send him to another hospital. He decided to discharge himself instead.

Continue reading ‘Friday assaults’

Moral education likely to end up as immoral indoctrination

In a throwback to the “Nation-building” age — has it ever ended? — the Straits Times headline of Wednesday, 9 November 2011 spoke of new ways to teach students morals/values/ethics, using the three terms interchangeably. Science, maths and English language teachers will be roped in to do the job, announced the Ministry of Education. A new Character and Citizenship Education branch has been set up at the ministry to oversee the effort, adding more catchwords to the already hazy concept.

Like so much spoken and written about morals/values/ethics/character/citizenship, much space was given over to “how we shall do this better”, with next to no debate about what exactly we mean by morals/values/ethics/character/citizenship. People who get on a soapbox about these things tend to assume that everybody else shares the same understanding of the matter. They also tend to assume that most of the time, the “right” morals/values/ethics and character/citizenship behaviour can be prescribed. That being the case, it’s just a matter of mechanics as to how we can get young people to imbibe them. And that was exactly the sense I got from the news report — an entire conference devoted to the mechanics.

Continue reading ‘Moral education likely to end up as immoral indoctrination’

Amy Khor should talk about sex

Minister of State for Health Amy Khor took over as head of the national policy committee for HIV and Aids at the beginning of this month, reported the Straits Times, 25 October 2011. She “succeeds” the late Balaji Sadasivan who died September 2010. That the position remained vacant for over 12 months tells you how much importance the government attaches to HIV and Aids.
Continue reading ‘Amy Khor should talk about sex’

Seeing a tiger when it’s just a cat

One of the few good things the late Balaji Sadasivan implemented when Minister of State for Health, was universal ante-natal screening for HIV, allowing for early intervention. From four cases of mother-to-child transmission in 2004, it was brought down to zero in 2008 and 2009. However, two more cases popped up in 2010.

It is truly tragic for anyone to be born with an infection as serious as HIV.

One of the films at the 24th Singapore International Film Festival touches on this. Living with the Tiger (Thursday, 22 Sept 2011, 9:30 pm, Lido cinema) follows two children at Baan Gerda, a small community in Thailand that cares for about 80 children affected by HIV.

Continue reading ‘Seeing a tiger when it’s just a cat’


For an update of the case against me, please see AGC versus me, the 2013 round.

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