Using Generic Drugs to Fight HIV?

~by: Yaw Shin Leong/MP for Hougang SMC~

About a week after the lunch I had with an ex-inmate Mr. E, who is also HIV+ (see HERE), I met up over coffee with Mr. Shawn Lee, an advisory group member with the Global Network Of People Living with HIV (GNP+).

Shawn updated me about the fight against HIV in Singapore & the region. He shared with me his disappointment that in recent participation at an UN forum on HIV, Singapore did not send any official representative, whereas some other ASEAN countries did.

He said that he was there in his capacity as a member of the advisory group to GNP+. During our coffee He shared with me the following advocacies by GNP+:

  1. Pre-enlistees to Singapore’s National Service ought to be pre-informed that the blood tests they are subjected to, will be screened for HIV.
  2. To treat HIV as a chronic disease, as if it is something similar to other chronic illness, such as high blood pressure etc.
  3. To make subsidy more readily available for HIV drugs.

According to Shawn, a delegate from Nepal during the conference quipped that ‘For a HIV+ patient, Singapore is one of the worst countries to live in’. Shawn explained that, the reason behind the observation is because, once diagnosed with HIV in Singapore, there would be lots of emotional & financial fear and unknowns for both the patients and society at large.

He said that there is a need for more awareness creation on HIV facts and living with HIV. Shawn said that people (both patients & the community) has to know, ‘what is in it for this person/ community, if this person turns out to be positive’

Shawn noted that the hefty price tag of patented HIV drugs and the relative limitations of using CPF monies to purchase HIV drugs (usage of CPF monies for the purchase of generic drugs are not permissible). As such patients’ options will be severely limited.

He shared that if cheaper and generic HIV drugs are made available, it will certainly encourage individuals with HIV to seek earlier access to medication/ treatment (early usage). Shawn shared that according to studies this will lower the transmission of ‘viral-load’. This is because suspected HIV individuals, who know about the affordability of the medications are not likely to delay the seeking of screening, treatment and medication. Hence knowing that one is infected, and on HIV medication early on, will likely and indirectly reduce the unknown transmission of the HIV virus. Refer to the news report which suggests that there can be a drastic drop of 96%.

He cited Malaysia as an example that permitting the usage of generic HIV drugs as first line medical treatment had yielded a downward trend on HIV statistics over the years, whereas Singapore is currently on the upward trend. Refer to the graphs.

I share Shawn Lee’s perspectives.

TOC thanks MP Yaw Shin Leong for allowing us to reproduce the edited version of his FB note (see HERE).

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