Singapore officials blame American for leaking patients' HIV records

Singapore officials blame American for leaking patients' HIV records

Singapore officials blame American for leaking patients' HIV records

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".

Mikhy K Farrera Brochez, a U.S citizen is reported to have gained access to the information through his former partner Dr. Ler Teck Siang who was once the head of the Ministry of Health's National Public Health Unit.

He was deported after a conviction for numerous fraud and drug-related charges almost two years ago, the agency said.

Confidential data containing the HIV-positive status of thousands of individuals living in Singapore was recently leaked online by United States citizen Mikhy Brochez, Singapore's Health Ministry announced on Monday. These included HIV test results, names, identification numbers, phone numbers, addresses and other health information, it said on Monday. The name, identification number, phone number and address of 2,400 people identified through contact tracing up to May 2007 was also included.

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

The Health Ministry said it had begun contacting affected individuals about the incident and was working to "disable access to the information".

The leak comes as Singapore is still dealing with the ramifications of another health-related data breach in July 2018, when hackers infiltrated the computers of SingHealth and stole the personal particulars of 1.5 million patients, including Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong.

The exposed records belong to 5,400 Singaporeans diagnosed with HIV before January 2013, and 8,800 foreigners diagnosed before December 2011, the MOH said. MOH lodged another police report, and contacted the affected individuals.

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In a statement, the health ministry blamed Ler for the breach, accusing him of not complying with the policies regarding the handling of confidential data.

The ministry noted in its statement that since 2016, it has set up additional safeguards in order to prevent any information from being mishandled in the future. His partner previously had access to the HIV registry for his work, it said.

September 2018: Ler was convicted of abetting Farrera-Brochez to commit cheating, and of providing false information to the police and MOH.

June 2016: Ler was charged for offences under the Penal Code and OSA.

The ministry said it was notified last Tuesday that "more information" could be in Brochez's possession and that it had been disclosed online.

"This may have led to an unauthorized person gaining possession of the data and disclosing it online", he said. After Brochez was deported last May, the ministry said it learned he still had some records.

Police are investigating and the authorities are seeking help from foreign counterparts. Ler was sentenced to 24 months in jail, but has since filed an appeal, which is expected to be heard in March.

Only when the police notified MOH last week (22 Jan) that the confidential information possessed by Farrera-Brochez has been leaked online that MOH made a decision to inform the public yesterday.

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