The three most dreaded letters, and the stuff of nightmares.
We are not talking about ERP here, but rather HIV.
Ever since its discovery on the world stage in the 1980s, HIV has continued to plague us for lack of a known cure.
We go on a deep dive to uncover some 7 of the most important yet surprising things we may not know about HIV in Singapore.
1. Being HIV positive does not mean AIDS
For the longest time, HIV was synonymous with AIDS. What is the difference between those two, other than their spelling?
For one, HIV refers to the Human Immunodeficiency Virus, which is a virus. Much like one of the 200 viruses that can cause a cold. (In fact one of the symptoms of HIV is flu).
AIDS, however, refers to a state of a human body which is rendered so weak and thus unable to fight off many common illnesses (Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrom).
HIV used to be lumped together with AIDS as an inseparable and interchangeable pair, but think of AIDS as a late, late stage of a HIV infection.
These days, with early treatment, most people with HIV will not acquire AIDS. This is because their immune system can be kept bolstered with regular medical care, so much so that AIDS will not set in.
2. A HIV positive person can have a relatively normal life
Oh, the wonders of scientific advances! These days, being diagnosed with HIV no longer equates to an automatic death sentence.
The life expectancy of HIV carriers continues to increase, and a study has shown that for young people (if diagnosed and treated early), their life expectancy is well into their 70s.
Of course, being HIV positive means that a person is more susceptible to other illnesses and diseases, but as we uncover more and more information about how the HIV spreads and affects the body, there is a reasonably high standard of living to be expected even for carriers.
3. Singapore used to deport HIV-positive foreigners – but not anymore
Since the discovery of HIV on the world stage in the 80s, Singapore implemented a total ban on foreigners with HIV (no visiting Haw Par Villa or Sentosa for them).
So why the draconian measure? Back in the day, HIV was newly discovered, and more importantly, it had no known cure – it still has no known cure, but more of that later.
In recent years, we have been able to control and suppress the virus (though not eradicate it fully from the body), which explains a more tolerant stance of Singapore these days.
However, it is important to note that only the short term visitors are allowed to visit. Those with long term passes are still subjected to this ban.
Calls for even more tolerance are being made and we could see the ban lifted totally in the future.
4. HIV patients can purchase insurance – just not in Singapore (yet)
One of the titans in the insurance world (Prudential) made news late in 2015 by being the first company to offer insurance plans to HIV patients.
“With advances in the successful treatment of people with HIV, we are now able to offer this population the opportunity to apply for life insurance—a milestone we see as a significant step in the right direction,” said Mike McFarland, vice president, underwriting for Prudential Individual Life Insurance
That’s great – if you are living in the United States. As of now, Prudential Singapore does not offer any such plan or coverage for HIV patients.
In Singapore, insurance coverage generally excludes HIV infections and its symptoms. For those that do, the policies provide some limited coverage but it only includes transmission via health care work, not via sexually transmitted means. (which accounts for nearly 100% of the method of transmission here in Singapore)
But don’t lose hope.
The newly minted CPF Medishield Life covers HIV patients and their medical claims (HIV related or otherwise), though at a higher premium.
It could just be a matter of time before the private insurers get in on the act as well.
To address any potential Critical Illness protection shortfall on your own, check out FWD Insurance. They have a fully online and hassle free purchase experience.
5. Chance of encountering a HIV patient in Singapore: 1 in 826
As of Ministry count in 2014, there were about 6685 Singapore residents diagnosed with HIV. Given that our population is about 5.5 million give or take, this means that there is one person among 826 that is carrying the virus.
For the first 10 months of 2015, there was a total of 380 new cases of HIV reported. In almost all the cases, the virus was acquired via sexual transmission – 38% heterosexual, 50% homosexual, 10% bisexual.
If you didn’t know already, use a condom if you engage in risky sexual activity. (and we don’t mean doing the dirty on a tightrope)
6. HIV Patients can have kids
We can hear you screaming “whaaaaat” from way back here. Calm down, and take a moment. Yes, its possible. Let us state it out here.
HIV patients can have a baby. Without undue risk of transmitting the virus to the child. This works both ways for males and female virus carriers.
For positively identified females, there is medication available to suppress the risk of transmission to the baby (under 1% chance).
For the positively identified males, there are procedures to remove the HIV virus from the semen – making transmission to the baby impossible.
Life finds a way.
7. Medical advances are getting us closer to a functional cure
While there is still no known cure for HIV, we do know alot about the roadblocks to the cure – and hence researchers can pick apart and remove them.
The reason HIV is so hard to treat is because it almost plays hide and seeks with us in the body. The virus can “deactivate” and then go into a dormant state in the body – rendering it almost impossible to find, and thus to destroy.
The first step of the way seems to be developing agents that are capable of awakening – and thus discovering the location of the virus, which makes destruction so much easier.
The second step is also figuring out how to make the medication “remain” in the body long enough so that it catches those viruses still playing the hide and seek game.
With each year that passes, new discoveries continue to be made and we may one day be in possession of a real, functional cure to this dreaded virus.
We hope this article sheds a new light and a new perspective on what we know as HIV.
Share it with your friends and family!
www.ClearlySurely.com aims to eradicate the knowledge gap between consumers and Life Insurance. Our Vision is that one day, every Man, Woman, and Child will be properly insured.