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April 11, 2001 06:46am
Man Jailed for Lying on Blood Donor Form
Source: Reuters

(SINGAPORE) -- A Singapore man who donated HIV-infected blood has been jailed for 15 months for lying on a screening questionnaire about unprotected sex with a prostitute.

Neo Swee Chye, a 30-year-old electrician, told District Judge Siva Shanmugam on Tuesday he was ``in a hurry'' to fill out the donor form at a mobile blood bank last June but maintained he was not aware at the time he had the virus that causes AIDS.

The judge, quoted by the Straits Times newspaper on Wednesday, called Neo ``utterly irresponsible'' before making him the first person to be convicted of giving false information under the Infectious Diseases Act, .

Neo's donation was destroyed after a test by a Ministry of Health laboratory showed it carried HIV, according to court records.

Neo could have received a two-year sentence and a S$20,000 ($11,050) fine.

Three other blood donors -- including one who lied on six occasions -- have been jailed previously for up to 12 months for similar offences but under the Penal Code.

A total of 1,325 Singaporeans have contracted HIV since 1985 in a total population of about four million. Some 462 have died.

Most people with HIV are middle-aged, heterosexual men who caught the virus via casual sex or sex with prostitutes.

Neo, who gave blood three months after having unprotected sex with a prostitute on the nearby Indonesian island of Batam, said he was likely to face discrimination and lose his job.

``My disease requires life-long treatment and the medical costs will be hefty,'' he said in a mitigation plea to the court, quoted by the Straits Times. ``I was unaware that I was infected when I donated the blood.''

In a statement, the Ministry of Health said Singapore used state-of-the-art techniques to screen donated blood but stressed that blood banks should not be used as HIV testing centers.

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