Archive for the 'health and hiv' Category



Invisible obesity tax

Rush hour. A huge crowd had built up at the foot of the escalator going up to the metro concourse. Almost all commuters honoured the “stand to your left” rule, allowing those who wished to walk the right-side lane. But in fact, the walkers could not walk anyway, because there was one commuter who was as wide as the escalator, and despite trying her best to keep to the left, she could not free up enough space beside her to allow others to pass.

On the train itself, there was one guy trying to contain himself within one seat, but he overflowed his own space so much that no one else chose to squeeze into what remained of the seat to his left.

Continue reading ‘Invisible obesity tax’

Farewell – Dr Balaji Sadasivan

This obituary by CSZhou:

27 Sept 2010: I came back from a meeting to find two messages from a couple of hours  ago this morning. I had just met him a few weeks ago, with his  beautiful wife and went over to shake his hand and wish him well. We  had not chatted in two years.

The gay community sometimes treated him as anti-gay but the little  time I have had with him I learnt that he was a man of much  magnanimity, a doctor to the end.

Continue reading ‘Farewell – Dr Balaji Sadasivan’

St Patrick’s patch 3: To do or not to do

Much of contemporary culture has gotten it wrong. Sex is not that connected with love. Sex is, foremost, pleasure, though I think it is also rather overrated even in that regard. Playing the piano can be more fun. Trust me, I’ve done both.

Too many adults tell enquiring teenagers that sex is something special and should be reserved for the one special person you love. Then when the teenager asks, What is love? the answer is “You’ll know it when you experience it.”

Continue reading ‘St Patrick’s patch 3: To do or not to do’

St Patrick’s patch 2: Pregnancy and infection risk

St Patrick’s patch 1 consisted of a matter-of-fact guide for choosing the right condom and using it. In this patch 2, I will discuss why using a male condom is important in penetrative sex. Since this article is aimed at teenagers, I figure I need to begin by explaining what I mean by “penetrative sex”. Actually, I may need to explain “sex” to start with.

In current adult usage, “sex” is any erotically arousing activity between two or more persons with at least one party in contact with the genitals of the other party. This contact can be genital to genital, mouth to genital, or even hand to genital. If neither party’s genitals come into play, e.g. deep kissing, it is generally not considered sex.

Continue reading ‘St Patrick’s patch 2: Pregnancy and infection risk’

St Patrick’s patch 1: How to use a condom

Straits Times, Saturday, 21 August 2010 carried this story with a large headline:

St Patrick’s objects to condom video

But HPB says removing it would affect integrity of sex ed programme

For two years, St Patrick’s School had been fighting with the Health Promotion Board (HPB) to have a segment of the board’s compulsory sexuality education programme modified.

The Catholic school had wanted a video on the use of condoms removed.

But the HPB, which developed the programme, Breaking Down Barriers, together with the Ministry of Education (MOE), had refused on the grounds that doing so would affect the ‘integrity of the programme’. Continue reading ‘St Patrick’s patch 1: How to use a condom’

Three clippings from last Saturday’s newspaper

“In search of the other story” was the headline for Saturday’s Insight section of the Straits Times (14 August 2010). It looked at the small phenomenon of “a flurry of books on Singapore’s left-wing movement of the 1950s and 1960s, ranging from personal memoirs to academic tomes.” Many of these books, published in the last 10 – 15 years, were authored by the actors of history themselves, such as Fong Chong Pik (also known as Fang Chuang Pi) and Said Zahari.

Academics interviewed by the newspaper for this story welcomed the trend. Constitutional law professor Kevin Tan was quoted as saying, “If you don’t write alternatives, you leave the space entirely to the state.” Tan is also the president of the Singapore Heritage Society.

Continue reading ‘Three clippings from last Saturday’s newspaper’

Bioethics through the lens of Human Rights

The Tenth World Congress on Bioethics was held in Singapore in the last week of July 2010. A major speech was given by Michael Kirby (right), a retired High Court judge from Australia. He was also a member of the International Bioethics Committee 1996 – 2005, and served as chair of the drafting group that prepared the first text of the International Bioethics Declaration.

Our local media gave scant space to this speech (below). When you read to the last quarter of it, you can guess why. Kirby locates the development of bioethics principles in human rights law, particularly the principle that every human being has inherent dignity and a right to autonomy, but he also trains the light on those who would use the Asian Values argument to undercut human rights. Continue reading ‘Bioethics through the lens of Human Rights’

Bed crunch continues even as new hospital opens

Another day, another reason to be sceptical.

Sunday Times, 25 July 2010, reported “Full house at Khoo Teck Puat Hospital”. This headline should be handled with care since the details indicate that the new hospital in Yishun has so far only opened 200 beds. Nonetheless, the subheader hailed another achievement by the government: “Bed crunch at other public hospitals eased”.

Continue reading ‘Bed crunch continues even as new hospital opens’

Straits Times’ choices on HIV and gay marriage

The third week of July 2010 saw a huge HIV and Aids conference in Vienna, attended by a reported 20,000 people. Through the week, the Straits Times carried two reports in its print edition, both sourced from news agencies and placed in the World section. It did not take the opportunity to write about the still-growing statistics within Singapore.

In fact, I have observed that the newspaper almost never touches on the subject of HIV and Aids in the local context unless the Ministry of Health issues a media statement. It seems to me that there is an editorial policy of staying away from the subject until a clear go-ahead has been given by the government. Since I have not tracked the newspaper’s behaviour with respect to other diseases such as Influenza A(H1N1), diabetes or breast cancer, I am not able to say whether the reluctance is a reluctance to talk about diseases generally or just a reluctance to talk about HIV.

I suspect there are special difficulties for the newspaper with respect to HIV. It may not please the government, whose feelings the newspaper is always very sensitive to, for a newspaper to call attention to a festering problem that the State does little about. Continue reading ‘Straits Times’ choices on HIV and gay marriage’

How to fight human trafficking: Ban the term ‘sex work’

My belief in human rights is inseparably tied with my belief in individual autonomy and liberty. I cannot conceive how one can speak of human rights by denying individual choice. As I have said many times to people often too shocked to respond, in my view, liberty includes the freedom to do sex work. You have a right to prostitute yourself.

This is one of the cutting questions that cleave one kind of human rights campaigners from another. The other kind is undoubtedly impassioned about righting social ills that deny the best possible life to people — I have nothing but respect for their energy and dedication — but they work with very different starting assumptions. They reserve to themselves the right to define what are ills and what “best possible life” means, and in the name of human rights, work to lift people towards those goals.

I not only think this is too paternalistic, I see a huge irony between speaking of human rights and denying others the right to choose.

Recently, I found myself confronting and arguing against this other conception of human rights.

Continue reading ‘How to fight human trafficking: Ban the term ‘sex work’’


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

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