STDs: Can I Go to the Police If a Partner Infected Me in Singapore?
In a time when the world continues to find ways to handle infectious diseases, we are increasingly realising the need to be responsible for our own actions in order to curb the spread of diseases.
While the spread of certain infectious diseases may be harder to control, given the nature of the disease, there are certainly other infections than can easily be prevented. A sexually-transmitted disease is one of them.
This article will explain what are Sexually-Transmitted Diseases (STDs) as opposed to Sexually-Transmitted Infections (STIs), and whether you can sue your partner, in the unfortunate case they’ve infected you with one.
It must be noted that the requirements and penalties provided by law, discussed hereon, apply to all persons, whether male or female, and regardless of the sex or gender of their partners.
What are Sexually-Transmitted Diseases (STDs) and Sexually-Transmitted Infections (STIs)?
While the terms STD and STI are often used interchangeably, they are technically different.
An STD is the most commonly-used term that refers to diseases contracted through sexual contact between partners. Prior to developing a disease, however, a person may already be infected by a pathogen such as bacteria, virus, fungi, protozoa or parasites, which can (and has been) transmitted through sexual intercourse – this is referred to as an STI.
People who become infected with a pathogen that can be contracted through sexual contact may not necessarily experience symptoms or have that infection turn into an actual sexually-transmitted disease.
Examples of known STDs include, among others:
- Human Immunodeficiency Virus or HIV;
- Human Papillomavirus or HPV; and
- Urea plasma infection.
Can I File a Police Report Against the Partner Who Sexually Infected Me?
If you’ve been infected with HIV
Yes. Under the Infectious Diseases Act (IDA), a person who knows that he has HIV infection is prohibited from engaging in any sexual activity with another person unless he has fully disclosed his HIV-positive status to the other person and the latter has voluntarily agreed to accept that risk. A person who breaches this law can be found guilty of an offence.
Therefore if your partner does not disclose his/her status and engages in sexual activity with you deceitfully, knowing full well that they are hiding their status, then you may file a police report against your partner once you learn about their HIV-positive status.
It ought to be noted that merely disclosing one’s HIV-positive status is not sufficient. What is necessary is to ensure that the partner understands and actually appreciates the risk of being infected by HIV through sexual intercourse.
For example, if your partner disclosed their HIV-positive status to you while you were drunk and unaware of what was going on, and then goes on to engage in sexual activity with you, you might not have voluntarily agreed to accept the risk of contracting HIV from your partner. As a result, your partner may have also committed an offence that you can file a police report for.
What if a person does not know for sure if they are infected with HIV but may have reason to believe that they are?
If a person does not know for sure that he/she has an HIV infection, but may have reason to believe that he/she has been exposed to a significant risk of contracting the infection, he/she is also prohibited from engaging in sexual activity unless:
- He/she has informed his partner of the risk and the partner has voluntarily agreed to accept that risk;
- He/she undergoes the necessarily serological test and determines that he does not have HIV at the time of sexual activity; and
- He/she takes reasonable precautions (such as the use of protection) to ensure that he does not expose his partner to the risk of contracting HIV during sexual activity.
The written consent of the public prosecutor is required to institute prosecution for the above offence, but not for a person charged with that offence to be arrested.
What are the Penalties for Failure to Disclose Your HIV-Positive Status to a Sexual Partner?
A violation of the above-stated obligations under the law makes a person liable to a fine of up to $50,000 and/or to imprisonment for a term up to 10 years. In 2018, a 29-year old Singaporean man was sentenced to 2 years’ jail for failing to inform his male sex partner that he was infected with HIV when they had sex 5 or 6 times between 2012 to 2013.
There are certain factors that affect how someone may ultimately be penalised for non-compliance with the disclosure requirement under the law, as shown below:
|3||6 to 10 years’ imprisonment||Actual transmission of HIV.
Any culpability-increasing factors would increase the starting point within this band.
|2||2 to 6 years’ imprisonment||High risk of transmission and/or greater culpability.
The more culpability-increasing factors there are, the higher the starting point within this band.
|1||Fine to 2 years’ imprisonment||Low risk of transmission and low culpability (generally, less than 2 culpability-increasing factors, or more culpability-increasing factors present but to a limited degree)|
Culpability-increasing factors in this instance may include:
- The number of times sexual activity occurred
- The viral load of the HIV-positive partner at the time of sexual activity
- Lack of use of protection during sexual activity
If you’ve been infected with STIs/STDs other than HIV
Someone who knowingly engages in sexual activity with another person without disclosing that they have tested positive for any other STIs/STDs, apart from HIV, may also be penalised under section 376H of the Penal Code for procurement of sexual activity by deception or false misrepresentation.
Under this section, if a person who is the carrier of an STI/STD engages in sexual activity with another consenting person, then they may be found liable if such consent was fraudulently obtained through lying about or not disclosing their status as an STI/STD carrier.
If the sexual act leads to harm, including the subsequent infection by the partner, then the person who infected the other may also be liable under section 321 of the Penal Code for Voluntarily Causing Hurt (VCH) to someone.
In some instances, a person may even be liable for Voluntarily Causing Grievous Hurt (VCGH) under section 322 of the Penal Code, because some kinds of STIs/STDs have been known to cause severe bodily damage – an example of this is syphilis, which in its latent stage, may cause brain damage, organ shutdown, and may lead to death.
Will the Offence of Sexually Infecting Someone Result in a Criminal Record?
You will not have a criminal record if you are HIV-positive and have been convicted of the Infectious Diseases Act offence of engaging in sexual activity with someone who has not voluntarily accepted the risk of contracting HIV from you.
However, if you are convicted of procurement of sexual activity by deception or false misrepresentation or of VCGH under the Penal Code, you will generally have a criminal record.
Even if you have been given a criminal record for these offences, you might still have the opportunity to have your criminal record treated as spent. This simply means that your record will be wiped clean. To qualify for having your record spent, you must first meet the following criteria:
- If you were given a prison sentence, your imprisonment term must have been not more than 3 months;
- If you were given a fine, the fine imposed on you must have been not more than $2,000;
- You must not have any other conviction on your criminal record; and
- You must not have any previous spent record on the register.
If you meet these criteria, you then have to remain crime-free for at least 5 consecutive years, starting from the date of your release from prison, or from the date that your sentence was passed if you were given a fine.
Once you accomplish this, your record will be spent automatically, and you will be able to legally declare that you do not have a criminal record.
If My Partner Has HIV or other STIs/STDs, Should I Also Get Tested?
Yes. Even if you only have one sexual partner, as long as you are sexually active, you’re always at risk of contracting STIs/STDs. And especially because regular sexual activity with your partner constantly puts you at risk of infection, it would be best to get checked.
Most STIs/STDs are not life-threatening as long as they are discovered early and treated accordingly. While there are some infections that are incurable (such as HIV), many of them can be treated with antibiotics.
What Should I Do If I Find Out I am HIV-Positive?
As mentioned earlier, if you were to engage in sexual activity with a partner after finding out about your status, you are required to make the necessary prior disclosure.
You may be required to undergo counselling after being diagnosed with HIV, and failure to comply may make you liable to a fine of up to than $10,000 and/or imprisonment for up to 2 years.
You are also prohibited from donating blood, as well as doing any other act which is likely to transmit or spread HIV infection to another person, such as activities that may lead to the sharing of needles. A person who violates this prohibition may be liable to a fine up to $50,000 and/or imprisonment for up to 10 years.
I am a Foreigner and I am HIV-Positive. Will I be Allowed Entry into Singapore?
While HIV-positive foreigners intending to enter Singapore as a tourist or on short-term visit passes are allowed to enter Singapore, this is not the case for foreigners intending to stay in Singapore on long-term passes.
Foreigners intending to apply for such long-term passes will be tested for HIV beforehand, and those found to be HIV-positive may not be granted passes for entering Singapore.
Migrant workers who become infected with HIV while staying in Singapore may face repatriation.
What Should I Do If My HIV-Positive Status is Disclosed to Other People Without My Consent?
Under the IDA, anyone who becomes aware of a person’s HIV-positive status in the performance of his/her work functions or duties is generally prohibited from disclosing any information that could identify that person, without their consent.
This restriction may apply to medical practitioners, health workers, or authorities who are enforcing the regulations connected to the spread of STIs for example.
If a person discloses any information which may identify the HIV-positive person without that person’s consent, where they received such information in the performance of their functions, they may be held liable for a fine of up to $10,000 and/or imprisonment for up to 3 months.
This is unless disclosure falls within certain exceptions provided for under the law, which include:
- Disclosure being required under a valid court order,
- Disclosure to a medical practitioner who is treating the HIV-positive person
- Disclosure to any blood bank
- Disclosure to the next-of-kin upon said person’s death, among others.
If this happens to you, and none of the exceptions apply, then you may make a police report against the person.
We all have a responsibility to be sexually responsible towards our partner. An essential aspect of this is the obligation to disclose your STI/STD status to your sexual partner.
While it may be understandable to want to hide one’s status because of the stigma that may come with having an STI/STD, it is unethical and possibly even illegal to put someone else’s health deliberately in danger through non-disclosure and omission, for your own desire.
Laws are in place to ensure accountability if a partner lies to you about his/her STI/STD status, and in case your sexual partner has put you in this position, you may file a police report and seek legal assistance on the matter.
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