Singapore officials blame American for leaking patients' HIV records

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

Yesterday, the Ministry of Health (MOH) confirmed that confidential information regarding 14,200 individuals diagnosed with HIV was leaked and is now in the possession of a foreigner named Mikhy K Farrera Brochez.

USA 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.

The information included their names, identification numbers, contact information, HIV test results and related medical information, along with the personal information of 2 400 of their contacts.

Outraged Singaporeans have blasted the Ministry of Health (MOH) for keeping silent about the leak of confidential information from the HIV registry for years, until the information was disclosed online by a foreigner.

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.

Brochez is not now in the city-state, the ministry said, adding that authorities were seeking assistance from their foreign counterparts. After he served his term Brochez was deported and was now outside the country.

Several Singaporeans have expressed outrage over the fact that MOH did not inform the public that confidential information from the HIV registry was leaked, years ago.

Jan 22, 2019: MOH was notified by police that confidential information from MOH's HIV Registry could be in Farrera-Brochez's possession, and had been leaked online.

The disclosure by Singapore's health ministry late Monday, coming after last year's news of a major cyber attack on its national health database, could further dent the highly wired state's push to place itself as a data and health care hub.

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.

A two-person approval process to download and decrypt registry information was implemented to ensure that the data can not be accessed by a single person.

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

Singapore police warned people against sharing the patients' information.

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

"On this occasion, he had disclosed the information online", said MOH.

"The Police would like to remind the public that it is an offence under the Official Secrets Act (OSA) for any person to be in possession of, communicate or use any of the confidential data that may have been disclosed".

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

"He was sentenced to 24 months' imprisonment". But he does not have a practising certificate or access to MOH and public healthcare IT systems with patient records. His appeal is scheduled to be heard in March.

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