Health Minister says sorry for data-leak of 14200 HIV-positive individuals

A man pins an HIV awareness ribbon to his shirt. The HIV-positive status of thousands of people was leaked from a Singaporean database this month

A man pins an HIV awareness ribbon to his shirt. The HIV-positive status of thousands of people was leaked from a Singaporean database this month

An HIV-positive U.S. expat now on the run has leaked the HIV-positive status of 14,200 people - plus their contact details and the names of some of their sex partners - from a Singaporean health database.

"We are sorry for the anxiety and distress caused by this incident", the statement said.

Leow Yangfa, a spokesman for LGBT charity Oogachaga, said the group was concerned people who have not disclosed their HIV status to employers, family or friends could face repercussions due to the leak.

United States citizen Mikhy Farrera Brochez lived in Singapore from 2008 and was convicted in 2017 on numerous drug-related and fraud offences, including lying to the Ministry of Manpower about his own HIV status, the statement said.

To dupe the authorities, Brochez went to the clinic where Ler, now 36, was working as a stand-in doctor for a medical test, but the blood sample used was from Ler, who labelled it with his partner's particulars.

Farrera-Brochez is accused of leaking the confidential information of 5,400 Singaporeans diagnosed with HIV as well as 8,800 foreigners who were diagnosed in Singapore prior to December 2011.

The ministry said Brochez worked in Singapore as a lecturer for a period before he was jailed for several drug and fraud-related offences and deported past year.

While access to the confidential information has been disabled, it is still in the possession of the unauthorised person, and could still be publicly disclosed in the future, the Ministry of Health said in a statement. After serving 28 months imprisonment, he was deported out of Singapore.

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The leak comes just months after Singapore revealed the worst cyber attack in its history after hackers infiltrated the government health database. As the Head of MOH's National Public Health Unit (NPHU) from March 2012 to May 2013, Ler had authority to access information in the HIV Registry as required for his work. Ler was convicted of "abetting Brochez to commit cheating, and also of providing false information to the Police and MOH" in September a year ago and jailed for 24 months. "Those of us who live without HIV can not begin to imagine the shock, distress, pain and betrayal they must be going through right now".

His boyfriend, Singaporean doctor Ler Teck Siang, had access to the HIV registry.

It further noted that despite the ministry's efforts to search for and seize all information that may have been taken from the HIV Registry, it wasn't until January 22, 2019, that officials were notified that Brochez still possessed documents from the registry.

Mr Gan added that the case against Ler is before the courts.

"The information has been illegally disclosed online".

The Ministry of Health (MOH) said it lodged a police report against Brochez in May 2016, when it received information that he had confidential information that appeared to be from the HIV registry.

"Going forward, we will continue to strengthen and to review our systems to ensure they are secure, and our priority remains the patients' well-being and we will extend whatever assistance and support that we can for them". Those with information or concerns can call the MOH hotline on 6325-9220.

Singaporean officials assured the public that they had installed additional security measures to protect patients' health data in 2016, three years after Brochez stole the HIV files.

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