The lifting of the ban on short-term visits by HIV-positive visitors is long overdue ("Entry ban eased for foreigners with HIV"; yesterday). Singapore was one of the few developed countries with such a restrictive policy.
However, the restriction on long-term visits should have also been abolished, or at least amended.
Long-term residents (except those married to a local) face immediate removal if tested HIV positive.
Deportation is a very drastic measure which often results in the loss of one's livelihood. Many countries do not offer the same standard of medical treatment as Singapore does, further aggravating the situation.
The fear of such deportation is also a factor for foreigners not to get tested for HIV, at least not while in Singapore. Those who use the local anonymous testing facilities and test positive will most likely seek medical care abroad.
Modern medication allows HIV-positive people to live a normal life. They pose no danger to society as long as they follow very basic rules. Thus, they should be considered as any other with a chronic disease.
It should be mandatory to offer medical treatment to all, regardless of whether they live in Singapore or are just here for a short visit.
Deportation should only be the last resort, for example, if a person refuses treatment or does not follow safe-sex rules. Doctors should be required to report only such cases and not every patient who tests positive.
As we look at our 50 years of achievements, we should move forward to create a more compassionate society. I hope the authorities reconsider the current policy and make Singapore a more open society.
Gil Simon Schneider (Dr)