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12 Oct 2004

4th s'pore AIDS conference, nov 27-28

Held biennially, the 4th Singapore AIDS Conference will cater to a multi-sectorial audience. Roger Winder, the MSM programme co-ordinator for Action for AIDS highlights why YOU should attend the conference.

As much as we fight stigmatising associations between HIV/AIDS and gay communities, the fact remains that in Singapore (and in other developed countries) HIV/STI infection rates ARE rising rapidly among men who have sex with men (MSM), who are over-represented in official statistics.

To deal with this situation, we need to find out more about what is actually happening in relation to vulnerable communities here. The 4th Singapore AIDS Conference provides the best opportunity to do this.

MSM (Men who have Sex with Men) Issues
Tan Chong Kee and Clarence Singam will chair an MSM symposium covering interesting issues related to HIV/STI transmission among MSM.

A discussion of results from the recently-concluded MSM Survey 2004 will indicate how sexual health-related behaviour has changed (and how it hasn't changed) since the last survey in 2002/2003: whether levels of high risk behaviour have increased or decreased, what the main reasons for not using condoms are, and whether HIV testing is becoming more or less common.

Official Ministry of Health data, as well as data from Action for AIDS' Anonymous HIV Testing and Counselling Centre, will be used to highlight trends among MSM testing positive, in terms of their typical profiles and how they are getting infected.

Martin Chio's presentation on sexually-transmitted infections (STI) will reveal which ones are more common among MSM in Singapore, as well as offer invaluable information about how to identify, test for, and get treatment for STI, and how one can reduce the risk of infection in the first place.

Recreational drug use is often linked to HIV transmission in many communities, Dr Stuart Koe (the CEO and co-founder of Fridae) will talk about how different recreational drugs contribute towards increasing levels of high risk behaviour, and how they are especially dangerous for those who are HIV-positive.

Paul Louey, our guest speaker from Hong Kong's AIDS Concern, will also show how Hong Kong is facing similar trends in HIV infection among MSM, and will share with us strategies used by his organisation to deal with this.

In another symposium on Voluntarism, Eileena Lee and Leow Yangfa will provide details of how volunteers from Action for AIDS' MSM Resources project offer sexual health information and support in chatrooms, e-bulletin boards and via email.
Other Vulnerable Communities
And no, the Conference is not just about MSM. Other vulnerable communities will also be the focus in the symposia on Sex Workers and their Clients, and on Youth.

The symposium on Sex Workers and their Clients will offer a glimpse into the different categories of sex work in Singapore, while fighting stigma and discrimination and encouraging responsible choices will feature prominently in the Youth Symposium.

Also touching on youth issues will be a debate between Anglo-Chinese Junior College and Raffles Junior College (chaired by Eleanor Wong, playwright, The Eleanor Wong Trilogy: Invitation to Treat) on whether teenagers should be taught the use of condoms, marking the first time such a debate has been organised within a Conference.

A plenary lecture by Ciaran McKinney from UK's Terence Higgins Trust will also deal with issues pertaining to Minors and Minorities. In addition, Dr Ye Tun, from the Ministry of Health, will provide an overview of which communities are vulnerable in Singapore and in the region in his plenary lecture.

Positive Voices
A few HIV-positive people, undoubtedly the best authorities on living with HIV/AIDS, will be sharing their stories and experiences at the Conference.

In addition, the mother of an adopted HIV-positive child will relate how the family has encountered discrimination, and the child's adopted brother, a talented singer, will perform a song.

Other Interesting Sessions
We are privileged to have Prof. Shao Yiming, China's leading HIV/AIDS authority, deliver a lecture on why HIV prevention and treatment are both necessary in dealing with the epidemic.

For healthcare workers, there will be two useful symposia on Medical Perspectives and Nursing, which will offer useful tips in diagnosing, treating and caring for patients with HIV/AIDS, including children and elderly patients.

Spiritual support is invaluable for people living with HIV/AIDS so a symposium on spirituality is part of the Conference, with speakers from different faiths sharing their perspectives.

Those who would like to volunteer for HIV-related work will have the chance to explore the various options available as representatives from different organisations elaborate on the projects they run in the Volunteers Symposium.

4th Singapore Aids Conference
Date: 27-28 November 2004
Venue: Singapore International Convention & Exhibition Centre (Suntec City)
For further information and registration: email comcon@pacific.net.sg or lee_cheng_chuan@ttsh.com.sg


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