HIV-positive man who donated blood during pandemic faces charge of lying about sexual history

HIV-positive man who donated blood during pandemic faces charge of lying about sexual history

A woman gives blood on a blood donation bus in Beijing on August 7, 2012
File photo of someone donating blood. (Photo: AFP/Ed Jones)

SINGAPORE: Claiming he wanted to help increase blood supplies during the COVID-19 pandemic, a man went to donate blood, but made a declaration that he had never had sex with another man before.

However, he later told a doctor he had oral sex with a man in 2017 on a bus in India, but did not indicate it as he thought "sex" did not include oral sex.

His blood tested positive for HIV and was not used. The 37-year-old man was charged last month under the Infectious Diseases Act for supplying false information linked to a blood donation.

The man, who cannot be named due to a gag order protecting his identity, came to court on Wednesday (Mar 3) intending to plead guilty.

The prosecutor read out the statement of facts in full, with the court hearing that the man had gone to Bloodbank@HSA on May 3 last year to donate blood.

Before doing so, he had to fill out a Donor Health Assessment Questionnaire - a legal document that he had to sign and acknowledge.

One of the questions was: "In your entire lifetime: Male Donors: Have you had sex with another man?"

He answered "no". The first page of the document defined "sex" as various penetrative acts including oral sex, but the court heard that signatures were not required on the first page, and the accused said he had overlooked this bit.

A doctor had confirmed his answers with him, and he affirmed that they were truthful, according to the statement of facts read out in court.

His blood was later tested and confirmed as infected with HIV, and after the doctor explained to him that oral sex was considered sex, the accused admitted that he had unprotected oral sex with a man on a bus in 2017.

The judge rejected the accused's plea of guilt as he said that the accused had qualified it by saying that he did not know at the time that oral sex was considered sex. This means he did not knowingly supply a false statement, the judge explained.

He directed the case to a pre-trial conference next week, the earliest date possible.

The prosecution is seeking at least three months' jail and a fine of S$10,000, but acknowledged that the accused admitted to the offence when first asked by the doctor.

The man, who was unrepresented, brought luggage with him to court as he told the court he was ready to go to jail. 

LOST HIS JOB, CANNOT AFFORD HIV TREATMENT

He told the judge that he had lost his job eight months ago and can no longer work in Singapore. He said he had spent all his savings and has only S$250 left for rent or food.

He said he is now an HIV patient and cannot afford the treatment, which is not subsidised for him as he is a foreigner.

"Once I came to know about this, I was so depressed (over) the severity of the disease," he said. He added he was the sole breadwinner for six dependents in his home country.

He said he had answered "no" to the question in the form as he had a "wrong perception", but agreed with what the prosecutor said.

"Now I'm suffering from this disease. If it (had) been transfused to someone else, they will also be (suffering)," he said.

"I didn't want to hurt anyone, or release spread of this disease or anything," he said. "I wanted to in fact help the country during the pandemic, during the crisis. When I went, it was during COVID time and the blood supply was very (little)."

He will return to court on Mar 12 for a pre-trial conference.

The penalty for giving false information relating to a blood donation is a maximum jail term of two years, a fine of up to S$20,000, or both.

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Source: CNA/ll(ac)

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