Action for AIDS: 'Deeply troubled' by HIV data leak, potential damage to lives of affected persons

Non-governmental organisation Action for AIDS said it stands by those affected by the data breach, calling it a crime that should be condemned. (Photo: Getty Images)

Action for AIDS (AFA) on Monday (January 28) said the non-governmental organisation is deeply troubled by the data leak from the Ministry of Health’s HIV registry.

In a statement published on its website, AFA president Roy Chan said the incident has the potential of damaging the lives of persons living with HIV and their loved ones.

“We stand by all those whose private information may have been accessed and violated. This is a criminal act that should be condemned and answered in the most severe terms possible,” said Professor Chan.

The Ministry of Health said in a press release on Monday that the HIV-positive status of 14,200 people, along with their names, identification numbers and contact details, had been leaked online by American fraudster Mikhy Farrera-Brochez.

The medical records belonged to 5,400 Singaporeans diagnosed with HIV up to January 2013 and 8,800 foreigners – including work and visit pass applicants and holders – diagnosed with the disease up to December 2011.

Brochez was jailed for 28 months in 2017 for fraud and drug-related crimes, before being deported.

He was a partner of Ler Teck Siang, a male Singaporean doctor, who was the Head of MOH’s National Public Health Unit (NPHU) from March 2012 to May 2013 and had access to the HIV Registry. He resigned in January 2014.

Ler was sentenced to two years’ jail last year for abetting Brochez to commit cheating, and also of providing false information to the police and the health ministry. His appeal is expected to be heard in March.

Ler has also been charged under the Official Secrets Act for failing to take reasonable care of confidential information regarding HIV-positive patients. His case under the OSA is pending.

In its statement, AFA, which is dedicated to fighting AIDS/HIV infection in Singapore, also urged members of the public to refrain from speculation and gossip, and not to share the confidential and private information should they gain access to it.

“We understand that this is a trying time for the many who are affected by this breach, and we would like to express our solidarity as a community that have been affected by HIV,” said Prof Chan in the statement.

“If we all stand firm in this matter, we can limit the damage of this theft,” he added.

Those who need support can reach out to their respective hospital’s care unit or their medical social workers and counsellors, AFA said.

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