Singapore officials blame American for leaking patients' HIV records

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The MOH said the information was in the possession of a USA citizen named Mikhy K Farrera Brochez, who had been remanded to prison in Singapore in 2016, convicted of numerous fraud and drug-related offenses. "Our former staff has been charged in court and the case is pending, and we will not hesitate to take stern action against staff who violate security guidelines, abuse their authority or abuse their access to information".

The ministry in May 2016 had filed a police report stating that Brochez had confidential information that appeared to be from the HIV Registry, prompting a property search during which relevant information was found and seized.

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. The information relates to 14,200 individuals who were diagnosed with HIV up to January 2013. Health Minister Gan Kim Yong apologised for the leak. The ministry said they were "progressively contacting the individuals" affected to inform them they had been doxxed.

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.

The details of another 2,400 of their contacts - identified through contact tracing - up to May 2007 were also leaked.

The ministry did not say how Brochez obtained the data or suggest a motive for leaking it online but said only that the partner was believed to have "mishandled" the information.

"Our counsellors are also available to assist them and to provide additional support if necessary", said the health minister.

MOH stressed that it will continue to regularly review its systems to ensure they remain secure and that the necessary safeguards are in place.

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He added: "I also understand the concerns, the anxiety and distress faced by our affected patients and our priority is their well-being".

Ler has been charged under the Official Secrets Act for failing to take reasonable care of confidential information regarding HIV-positive patients, and is out on bail.

Dr Ler Teck Siang was convicted in September of abetting Brochez in criminal activity, and sentenced to 24 months' imprisonment.

Brochez was deported from Singapore in May 2018 after he served a 28-month prison sentence for "numerous fraud and drug-related offences", which stemmed from him lying about his HIV-positive status to the Ministry of Manpower in order to maintain his employment visa. It had, however, notified the individuals affected.

About eight months later, MOH found that Brochez could have illegal possession of more information from the HIV registry and that he had disclosed the information online.

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.

To successfully apply for an employment pass to stay here with his boyfriend, Farrera-Brochez submitted a HIV-negative test result to MOM in March 2008 using Ler's blood for the test.

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