Singapore: Man gets a year in prison for HIV exposure via oral sex

The first person to be convicted of HIV exposure in Singapore has been sentenced to a year in prison. Incredibly, the HIV-positive man performed oral sex in a public toilet, which, as I had noted in my previous blog posting on this case, results in no risk to the person being sucked.

In a report from Bloomberg, Dr Andrew Grulich, professor of epidemiology at the University of New South Wales in Australia, commented, “In a case like this where the risk is miniscule, it seems ludicrous to be prosecuting a person.”

There are two reports below: the first from Singapore’s Straits Times reporting the story ‘straight’, and the second, from Bloomberg, with commentary.

Man jailed for not telling boy of risk in first HIV case
Elena Chong
July 14, 2008

IN THE first case of its kind, a 43-year-old HIV sufferer was jailed for 12 months on Monday for having sex with a boy without telling him of the risk of contracting the infection and getting him to agree to accept that risk.

Chan Mun Chiong, a former chef, pleaded guilty to performing oral sex on the 16-year-old boy at the third level male toilet of Northpoint Shopping Centre in Yishun last year.

Deputy Public Prosecutor Royce Wee said that Chan had been diagnosed to have human immunodeficiency virus infection (HIV) since March 1999.

On Sept 15 2007, he was at the mall’s toilet cubicle when he initiated some hand signals under the partition to the victim in the adjacent cubicle, indicating that he was interested to engage in sex.

The duo went one floor up to a cubicle for the disabled. He then performed oral sex on the boy for two to three minutes.

The DPP said Chan did not inform the victim of the risk of contracting HIV infection from him and did not get the boy’s voluntary agreement to accept that risk before the sexual intercourse.

After that Chan asked the victim to turn around, but he refused. Chan persisted but the boy again refused. The victim told him to get out of the cubicle.

Angry, Chan left but followed the victim around the shopping centre. The victim became worried and approached a security officer for help.

The court heard that the boy regretted what Chan did to him and his parents no longer speak to him. The DPP said fortunately, he was not infected.

He asked Principal District Judge Bala Reddy to impose an appropriate sentence on Chan, who could have been fined up to $10,000 and/or jailed for up two years.

Under the new laws passed last month, the penalties have been upped to $50,000 or a jail term of up to 10 years or both.

Singapore Jails Man With HIV for Performing Oral Sex on Youth
by Simeon Bennett

July 15 (Bloomberg) — Singapore jailed a man with HIV for performing oral sex on a teenage boy, the first time the city- state has used its laws to prosecute someone with the virus that causes AIDS, the Straits Times reported.

The 43-year-old chef was sentenced to one year in jail after pleading guilty to a charge he exposed the 16-year-old to HIV without informing him of the risks first, according to the report. The teenager didn’t contract the virus, the report said.

“The risk of transmission of HIV through oral sex is so low that it hasn’t been able to be measured in epidemiological studies,” Andrew Grulich, a professor of epidemiology at the University of New South Wales in Australia, said in a telephone interview from Sydney. “In a case like this where the risk is miniscule, it seems ludicrous to be prosecuting a person.”

Singapore is seeking to curb its HIV infection rate, which has doubled in the past decade. In April, lawmakers passed amendments to laws that make it a crime for a person who doesn’t know their HIV status and has “reason to believe” they may have the virus to have sex without informing a sexual partner or taking “reasonable precautions” to protect them.

The man performed oral sex on the teenager in a shopping mall toilet cubicle in September, the Straits Times reported. After the teenager refused his request for anal sex, he followed him around the mall until the boy asked a security guard for help, the newspaper said.

A spokesman for Action for AIDS, Singapore’s HIV advocacy group, said he needed the approval of a committee to comment.

In the April amendments to the law, Parliament also increased the penalties to a maximum 10 years jail and S$50,000 ($37,000) fine. The man was charged before the amendments came into effect.

So far this year, 192 people have been diagnosed with HIV in Singapore, compared with 167 in the same period last year, according to data on the health ministry’s Web site.

Singapore’s legal age of sexual consent is 16. The city- state also outlaws any act of “gross indecency” between men.