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HIV-positive man who donated blood given warning, has charge of lying about sexual history withdrawn

HIV-positive man who donated blood given warning, has charge of lying about sexual history withdrawn

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

SINGAPORE: A HIV-positive man who donated his blood and was later charged with lying about his sexual history had his charge formally withdrawn on Friday (Mar 12), after a lawyer took up his case.

The 37-year-old man, whose identity remains protected by gag order, had been charged with lying in the Donor Health Assessment Questionnaire on May 3, 2020, at Bloodbank @ HSA. He had indicated "no" to a question that read: "In your entire lifetime: Male Donors: Have you had sex with another man?"

The man told an open court last week that he had gone to donate blood as he wanted to help increase blood supply during the COVID-19 pandemic last year.

He also said he did not declare an oral sex encounter with a man in 2017 as he did not know the term "sex" included oral sex.

He told the court he was depressed after he found out he had HIV, had lost his job and could not afford unsubsidised treatment. His blood was not used as authorities test donated blood before using it.

The judge rejected the man's plea of guilt as he had qualified it by indicating that he did not know at the time of the incident that "sex" included oral sex.

After the hearing on Mar 3, lawyer Ashwin Ganapathy of IRB Law stepped forward to represent the man. 

After Mr Ganapathy made representations for him to the Ministry of Health's (MOH) prosecutors, a stern warning was issued to the man, and he was given a discharge amounting to an acquittal on Friday.

A copy of the MOH document issued to the man, seen by CNA, read: "You have committed an offence under the Infectious Diseases Act. After careful consideration of the circumstances of your case as disclosed by investigations, as set out below, you are hereby warned to refrain from committing any further offence and to comply with the law at all times.

"If you commit any offence in future, the same leniency may not be shown towards you."

The penalties he had faced for the charge of giving false information relating to a blood donation were a maximum jail term of two years, a fine of up to S$20,000, or both.

Speaking to CNA outside the court after his charge was withdrawn, the man said he was happy and relieved to have the case settled after about nine months. He said he planned to return to his home country.

He thanked his lawyer as well as organisations Transient Workers Count 2 (TWC2) and Action for Aids Singapore, which he said provided him with help. He said those with HIV and are facing stress should seek help from these organisations.

He also thanked MOH for withdrawing the charge.

Source: CNA/ll(cy)

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