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Police powers, tech companies, blabbermouths

This week: Amendments to the Infectious Diseases Act, proposed amendments to give cops more powers, and action might be taken against whoever leaked deets about the deal with Taylor Swift.

There’s a (slight) whiff of elections in the air: CNA reports that some public servants have already been notified that they’ll be election officials for the next general election, whenever that might be. My own guesstimate is September this year. Any other theories?


Once this amendment to the Infectious Diseases Act is in force, people living with HIV (PLHIV) will no longer need to inform sexual partners of their HIV status as long as they meet three conditions:

  1. They should have maintained an undetectable HIV viral load for at least six months, based on test results from recognised labs.
  2. Their most recent test—showing an undetectable viral load—must not be more than nine months old.
  3. They have adhered to medical treatment up until the time of the sexual activity.

This is because Undetectable = Untransmittable (U=U). Someone with an undetectable viral load will not transmit HIV to sexual partners, so someone who meets the three conditions above is not going to pass the virus on.

This legal amendment, and awareness of U=U, is important. Despite scientific and medical advancements over the years, many people still hold on to out-of-date assumptions about HIV and AIDS, perceiving people living with HIV as walking carriers of a “death sentence”. This is of course no longer true—some PLHIV I’ve met are fitter and healthier than I am and will probably outlive me—but these misconceptions continue to contribute to prejudice and stigma against PLHIV. The more people know U=U, the more we will dismantle these old anxieties and biases.

This change can actually also encourage more people to get tested, which is ultimately a good thing for everyone. A strong social stigma against PLHIV—and laws that force them to out themselves even when there is no risk of harm to others—acts as a deterrence against testing; even if someone suspects they might have HIV, they might choose not to get tested, so that they can avoid dealing with the consequences of having an official test that marks them as HIV+. This amendment removes the requirement for those with undetectable viral loads to out themselves, while still requiring people who have reason to believe they might be HIV+ to inform their sexual partners of the risk. This way, it makes more sense to go get tested and, if the test comes back positive, seek medical treatment ASAP to get that viral load down, than to ‘play dumb’ (even if due to understandable fears) and not find out.

As an ad hoc sex ed trainer, I’d like to take this opportunity to remind all boys and girls—and everyone in between or as yet undecided—that practising safer sex is always a good and responsible idea!


It feels like every time I read something about police powers in the local news it’s about giving the police more powers. This time, the government wants to change the law so that police officers have more power in apprehending people with signs of mental disorder, and are deemed to pose a risk to themselves or others. If they get their way, the police will be able to search, restrain and use “necessary force” when dealing with someone who is “mentally disordered”. The government proposes that, if danger to life or personal safety is “reasonably likely to occur” (even if this risk might not be imminent), then cops should be given the power to take someone into custody.

In 2017, Mah Kiat Seng was handcuffed, arrested and placed in a padded cell because a police officer claimed that he had appeared mentally ill. He was awarded $20,000 in damages last year for wrongful imprisonment, after the High Court found that the officer had arrested Mah not because he really thought that Mah was dangerous, but because he didn’t like the guy. K Shanmugam, Minister for Home Affairs and Law, had commented back then that the government had concerns about the High Court’s finding and that the police had “a different view” from the courts.


Who is the Foolish One who leaked details about the Singapore–Taylor Swift deal that caused Bad Blood between us and other Southeast Asian countries? (Sorry, I tried not to do the pun thing for a long time but it really is a journalist job hazard.)

This deal—in which a grant was given to bring Swift’s Eras Tour to Singapore, and make our city her only Southeast Asian stop—was meant to be kept on the down-low, and there a confidentiality clause was included in the contract. Srettha Thavisin, the Thai prime minister, was the one who let the cat out of the bag. It seems like he didn’t get the details right, but how did he even know in the first place? He said he was told by Anschutz Entertainment Group, but how did they know?

Responding to a question in Parliament, Edwin Tong, the minster for culture, community and youth, said that the government is studying the contract and will take “appropriate measures under advisement”.

We’ll have to wait and see if they’ll really find the source of the leak and take action, but I’m not surprised this got out. Man does not live by bread alone… we also freakin’ love gossip, and a government inking a multimillion-dollar exclusive deal with the world’s current pop queen must be premium-quality tea in concert promoter circles. People were already speculating from the very beginning that something must have been done to make Singapore Swift’s only Southeast Asian stop. Information about this deal was bound to get out sooner or later.


Scams have really proliferated online, and Sun Xueling, Minister of State for Home Affairs, has accused Meta of not being cooperative in the fight. She pointed the finger at the giant tech company in Parliament earlier this week, saying that Facebook Marketplace hasn’t implemented recommended safety features, even though Facebook is a major contributor to e-commerce scam cases in Singapore. “Meta has consistently pushed back against MHA’s recommendations for them to put in place safeguards to combat e-commerce scams on Facebook, such as verifying users against government-issued ID and offering a secured payment option for Marketplace users,” Sun said.

Who, us? was Meta’s response. Responding to The Straits Times, a Meta spokesperson said that they were “dismayed” by MHA’s criticism. “We believe in constructive dialogue and have been in close consultations with MHA and are reviewing their suggestions seriously.” They also pointed ST in the direction of its terms and policies that require all compliance from all products sold on Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp.

On the radar

Over at our Passion Procrastination newsletter, Gayathrii and I wrote about the delicious Korean revenge drama, Marry My Husband.

I didn't go to Taylor Swift but I did go to SHINee last weekend and it was great fun!

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