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HIV-positive man gets jail and fine for lying about sex history in blood donation form

HIV-positive man gets jail and fine for lying about sex history in blood donation form

File photo of someone donating blood. (Photo: AFP/Ed Jones)

SINGAPORE: A man who went to a blood donation drive in hopes of encouraging his colleagues to do the same lied about his sex history and gave HIV-infected blood.

The 58-year-old man, who cannot be named due to a gag order, was sentenced to four months' jail and a S$10,000 fine on Wednesday (Nov 6) after pleading guilty to one charge of giving false information in relation to his blood donation.

He had said "no" to two questions in a form for donors asking if he had ever engaged in sexual activity with another man or if he had engaged in such activities with a person he knew for less than six months in the past year.

The court heard that the man had gone to a blood donation drive at Bloodbank@HSA in Beach Road on May 22 last year.

Before donating his blood, he completed the required questionnaire and went through his answers with a medical officer, confirming that they were correct.

He was also told that it was an offence to lie on the questionnaire and informed of the consequences if convicted for such an offence.

He donated his blood and was given a card with a number to call if he felt that his blood should not be given to any patient. He did not make the phone call. 

His blood later tested positive for HIV and the Health Sciences Authority (HSA) called him to return for a medical appointment.

TESTED NEGATIVE FOR HIV MORE THAN 10 YEARS AGO

The man told a doctor with HSA's blood services group on Jun 5, 2018, that he had previously engaged in sexual activity with other men and that his last such act was more than a year before his blood donation.

He told the doctor that he had lied in answering the questions as he would not be allowed to donate blood if he had told the truth and he wanted to show his colleagues that blood donation was painless, said Ministry of Health (MOH) prosecutor Andre Moses Tan.

The man told a second officer, this time a public health officer with the National Public Health Unit, that he met men on a website known as Planet Romeo for sexual activities. He claimed that his last sexual activity with another man was in early May 2018, with a casual sex partner.

He revealed in this second interview that he had last tested negative for HIV infection more than 10 years ago during a health screening.

The man told a third officer, an investigation officer from MOH, that he suspected that he had been infected through his mouth in either 2017 or 2018, as he recently had gum and tooth problems.

He was not aware that having sores or gum problems increased the risk of HIV transmission from unprotected oral sex, said the prosecutor.

The prosecutor had asked for the sentence that was eventually meted out, saying there was a need for general deterrence as Singapore's blood supply "should be protected from any possible infraction as well as infection of innocent persons who receive blood".

The man had not only lied in the form, he also lied to the doctor who was confirming his answers with him and in forms he filled out when he previously donated blood. 

He had donated blood on nine previous occasions. 

"MOH's position is that it's unlikely that the accused's blood was infected in his previous donations," said the prosecutor.

However, he said that the man had, on the 10th occasion, "exposed potential recipients to a real prospect of harm". 

"While his blood was fortunately discovered by HSA to be infected and prevented from being used, the prospect of harm that the accused had exposed potential recipients to is very real."

In a statement on Friday, HSA said the infected blood was immediately isolated and destroyed. None of the donated blood was transfused to patients, it said.

"As his blood had been tested negative when he last donated in 1997, it means he could not have been HIV-positive before that," HSA added.

"NO BAD INTENTION"

The man, who had no lawyer, told the judge that his intention was to encourage his colleagues to donate blood.

"That's all, I have no bad intention," he said. "I just wanted to challenge my colleagues to go for blood donation, that's all."

District Judge Adam Nakhoda told the man that he accepted that he might not have had any bad intentions.

"And you might have had an altruistic motive, which is to encourage your colleagues, but the fact of the matter is a false statement was given ... which can have very dire consequences."

The man said that he would not have gone to donate his blood if he had known about his HIV-positive status.

The judge acknowledged that and told him that if he had intentionally given blood knowing he was HIV-positive, the sentence would be "far more serious".

For giving a false statement in relation to blood donation, the man could have been jailed for up to two years, fined a maximum S$20,000 or both.

Source: CNA/ll(hs)

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