Archive for the 'health and hiv' Category

Tolerant societies and immunity to data leaks

As much as we try to tighten data security, no one imagines that absolute safety is ever possible. The recent leak of records from the HIV registry will surely be followed by further breaches, some maybe even more extensive. Is laying on ever more layers of security the only possible response?

On 28 January 2019, the Health Ministry revealed that over 14,200 records of HIV-positive persons had been stolen and leaked online. They included details of 5,400 Singaporeans diagnosed with HIV up to January 2013 and 8,800 foreigners diagnosed up to December 2011. Continue reading ‘Tolerant societies and immunity to data leaks’

Clean hands to eat poisonous vegetables

The toilet at this coffee shop is quite serviceable

I wonder how many people are as surprised as I was to read that a coffee shop had its licence suspended for a day over the absence of soap in its washroom. Gee, if that’s the case, I said to myself, hundreds of food establishements should be shut down. Dirty, broken and ill-provisioned toilets are everywhere in Singapore. Continue reading ‘Clean hands to eat poisonous vegetables’

Zika erupts in Singapore: how we made it worse than it might otherwise have been


‘Cover up!’ screamed the immediate reaction I noticed on social media. The Health ministry had just announced that they have found 41 cases of Zika infection, barely 24 hours after they said that there was one confirmed case (on Saturday 27 August 2016). How can the number jump so fast without them knowing about these other cases earlier — was the implication behind the shouting headlines. They must be hiding facts from the public! Continue reading ‘Zika erupts in Singapore: how we made it worse than it might otherwise have been’

Culture, lifestyle diseases and the commandant’s room


Three hours I sat in a police station breathing second-hand smoke. As a small mercy, the officers would slide the windows open by 5 to 10 centimetres every now and then, and the stiff breeze from outside would cut in and dilute the carcinogens somewhat. Better yet was the whoosh of clean bracing air each time the door opened, but unfortunately it wasn’t often enough. There wasn’t much coming and going. Continue reading ‘Culture, lifestyle diseases and the commandant’s room’

Penalising the voiceless is cheaper than doing the right thing


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


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’