Men face military service
The Ministry of the Interior said yesterday that the Hsichih Trio would have to take another medical examination before it could decide whether they must serve their compulsory military service. By law, male citizens who are sentenced to more than five years or detained for more than three years are not required to complete their compulsory military service. Although Su Chien-ho (蘇建和), Liu Bing-lang (劉秉郎) and Chuang Lin-hsun (莊林勳) were detained for more than a decade, their sentences were overturned on Monday. When they were 18, before they were charged with murder, Su and Liu had been assigned to the army service and Chuang to the navy. If the physical examinations prove that the three men's health is good enough, they could be required to enroll in the military within a month.
HIV cases rise 16 percent
The number of HIV infections in Taiwan rose 16 percent last year to 4,757, according to official statistics released yesterday. Of these, 4,373 were Taiwanese nationals, Department of Health figures showed, the rest foreign residents. The continued double-digit increase was alarming to AIDS activists, although the nation's reported infection rate was still comparatively low, an official with the Department of Health said. Statistics indicated that an overwhelming majority of the newly-diagnosed infections with HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, were contracted through unprotected sexual intercourse, both homosexual and heterosexual. Infection rates in younger age groups were also on the rise, the official data showed, with the number of new HIV-positive Taiwanese aged 15-24 increasing from 58 in 1998 to 136 last year. Nearly three-quarters of Taiwan's new HIV-positive residents are aged between 20 and 39, according to the report.
■ Health insurance
Physician helping poor
A kind-hearted physician in the central Taiwan county of Nantou has spent NT$2 million (US$57,471) paying health insurance premiums for more than 100 impoverished families over the past two years, an official revealed yesterday. Tsai Shu-ling, manager of the Central Branch of the Bureau of National Health Insurance (BNHI), said the physician volunteered to pay health insurance premiums for the families in the county's Shuili and Hsinyi townships that could not afford to pay their medical bills. Over the past two years, Tsai said, the physician has helped more than 100 impoverished families in the two mountainous townships resolve their health insurance problems, at a personal cost of more than NT$2 million. None of the beneficiaries of his philanthropic act know the identity of their benefactor, as the physician insists on anonymity and has rejected any citation from the BNHI, Tsai said.
Tokyo seeking closer ties
The Japan Times reported yesterday that Tokyo may ease its restrictions on official exchanges with Taiwan. According to the report, Katsuhisa Uchida, chief of the Japan Interchange Association in Taipei, said Tuesday that Tokyo-Taipei ties are now mature and that higher-level policy dialogue will become necessary. The association takes care of Japan's interests in Taiwan in the absence of diplomatic relations, which were severed by Tokyo in 1972 in favor of Beijing.