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Singapore group launches mobile anonymous HIV testing van

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14:35, December 08, 2011

SINGAPORE, Dec. 7 (Xinhua) -- Action for AIDS (AFA) Singapore, a community organization, launched a mobile testing service van on Wednesday to offer HIV (human immunodeficiency virus) testing services on basis of anonymity for those who receive the tests.

The service is the first of its kind in Singapore and even in Southeast Asia.

The van is equipped with clinical facilities to conduct HIV and syphilis tests and it will travel with two specially-trained staff. It will be parked in a discreet manner, where the entrance is not in clear view to the public. The results of the tests will be disclosed within 20 minutes and in the strictest confidence.

No personal particulars like name and addresses will be taken. When in the van, the person being tested will be given a serial number for registration before the quick HIV test is administered.

After the test, on-site counseling and risk assessment will be conducted. If the results are found to be positive, the person will be recommended to go for a full blood test at an anonymous clinic.

"What we learnt over the years is the learning point during the one-to-one counselling is greater. When they leave the counseling, they will learn more things. A lot of the myths, the preconceptions they have about HIV would be cleared," said Mobile Testing Service manager Anwar Hashim.

The service is seen as easily accessible because testing can be done at irregular hours as opposed to the standard hours at an anonymous clinic.

"The timing is unique. (Testing can be done) in the evening, in late hours or even weekends. By having this van on site, it will enhance and value-add the programme and also create opportunity for the members of public to do testing," Anwar said.

AFA hopes the service will reverse the low rate of HIV anonymous testing in Singapore. While early diagnosis is regarded as key to reducing the spread of the virus, the rate of voluntary testing has been low in Singapore. Activists have been calling for efforts to reduce the prejudices against those who were infected with HIV.

Action for AIDS president Roy Tan has recently spoken about the need to bring HIV tests to the community rather than asking members of the public to come to clinics and take HIV tests themselves.

It's all about making HIV testing "more accessible" to them, he said.

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