Personal Details of 14,200 HIV-Positive Singaporeans Have Been Published Online

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

Medical records and contact information belonging to thousands of HIV-positive Singaporeans and foreign visitors to the southeast Asian city state have been leaked online, according to an alert issued by the country's Ministry of Health (MOH).

According to MOH, the confidential information is in the illegal possession of Mikhy K Farrera Brochez, a male USA citizen who was residing in Singapore, on an employment pass, between January 2008 and June 2016.

The sensitive information included names, identification numbers, phone numbers, addresses and HIV test results, MOH said in a press release.

MOH said Brochez was a partner of Ler Teck Siang, Head of MOH's National Public Health Unit from March 2012 to May 2013, who had authority to access information in the HIV Registry as required for his work.

Remanded in Prison in June 2016, he was convicted of numerous fraud and drug-related offences in March 2017, and sentenced to 28 months' imprisonment.

"We are working with relevant parties to scan the Internet for signs of further disclosure of the information", it said, adding that Brochez now was under police investigation and local authorities were seeking assistance from their foreign counterparts. He was deported after serving a jail term.

A major leak of the confidential data of 14,200 people with HIV in Singapore could hamper a fight against new infections among LGBT+ people in the city-state, campaigners said on Tuesday.

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On Jan 22 this year, MOH was notified by the police that Brochez may still have more information from the HIV Registry, and had leaked it online.

Just past year, however, personal health information of over 1.5 million patients was stolen in the largest-ever hack of Singapore's public health system - which included the file of Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong. It is indeed curious that the ministry held out until the information was actually leaked to inform the public of the illegal possession of confidential records.

These included a two-person approval process to download and decrypt information as well as the disabling of the use of unauthorised portable storage devices on official computers as part of a government-wide policy.

He also said officials believe Farrera-Brochez was overseas, but do not know where.

Singapore-based advocacy group Action for AIDS said the case has the "potential of damaging the lives of persons living with HIV and their loved ones".

Ler resigned in January 2014 and was convicted of abetting Brochez to commit fraud and providing false information to the police and Health Ministry. The ministry confirmed he'd received a 24-month sentence for this, among other offences, and that he has appealed the conviction.

May 2016: MOH lodged a police report after receiving information that Farrera-Brochez possessed information which appeared to be from the HIV Registry. At this point in time, did the authorities still believe there was no need to make public the news that some information had been stolen? "We are working with relevant parties to scan the internet for signs of further disclosure of the information".

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