Singapore’s HIV data leak. 14,200 individuals affected.

The records were of those diagnosed with HIV from 1985 to January 2013, comprising of 5,400 Singaporeans diagnosed from 1985 to January 2013, and 8,800 foreigners diagnosed from 1985 to December 2011. ‘Foreigners’ include work and visit pass applicants and holders.

Information leaked include names, identification numbers, phone numbers, addresses, and medical information besides HIV test results.

The Ministry of Health (MOH) was informed about the leak on 22nd January. The person allegedly responsible for this is said to be Mikhy Farrera Brochez, the male American partner of Ler Teck Siang, a Singaporean male doctor who used to work in the Ministry as the Head of their National Public Health Unit.

If you are interested to read more about those two and their alleged criminal activities, here are some details in easy-to-read point form:

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I was so shocked and gutted when I read about it last week. And as a gay Singaporean in Singapore, where there are no laws to protect People Living with HIV (PLHIV) against discrimination, my first thought was that of fear for those affected, regardless gay or straight. Of how if their HIV-positive status are made known to their employers and colleagues, they could still be discriminated or shunned at work if not fired altogether. And then I thought of those who are gay and still closeted, how devastating it would be if all is revealed to their families when they are not yet emotionally ready or willing to reveal they are gay, let alone HIV-positive. And then I thought of how the Samaritans of Singapore and other helplines might need to beef up their manpower because there might be a whole lot more vulnerable people now who might need their help. Yeah, I got crazy-scared for the affected people like that.

I mean, my God, what a nightmare. And it’s happening in real life. And it’s happening in my own beloved Singapore, where we fancy ourselves a first world country. Yet, not only do we still have that horrid law Section 377A that criminalises sex between mutually consenting adult males, and not only do we lack the anti-HIV discrimination laws that would be the decent thing to have to protect vulnerable people against stigma, but we have also now allowed this to happen. I can’t even imagine the heartbreak and anger and FEAR I would feel right now if I were one of those affected.

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I had actually gone for a HIV test at the Anonymous Testing Service organised by Action for Aids, the day after news about it broke on Monday 28th January. I was clueless then about what happened. But if I had known? Then forget it! I wouldn’t have gone for that test. I no longer trust our Ministry of Health to care for my confidential information (and this was not even the first time health records were breached), and by extension, any of our local NGOs. I say this with deep regret, because organizations like Action for Aids Singapore have worked SO HARD for more than 20 years to gain the trust of the gay community and other locals. It’s not their fault that the law makes it mandatory for the HIV-infected to be notified to the HIV registry.

But that’s exactly why I will NEVER AGAIN go for a HIV test in Singapore, in case it turns out positive. My HIV tests from now on will only be taken while on holiday trips in, say, Thailand. If, God forbid, I turn out to be HIV-positive one day and need subsidy for medication, at least it will be MY DECISION to inform some government registry or anyone else, friends or family, and only when I’m emotionally ready to do so. Ideally. I don’t think that’s too much to ask.

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2 thoughts on “Singapore’s HIV data leak. 14,200 individuals affected.

  1. How horrible. What a feeling of betrayal and how unhelpful to release this information since getting tested is so important for an individual’s health. What happens if someone needs HIV treatment? Will this information be released also? This kind a action destroys people’s trust in seeking medical care which is entirely counterproductive.
    In the US a law was just passed requiring doctors to notify law enforcement of all people who have prescriptions issued for opioids and anti-anxiety medication. This law snuck by with few people noticing because of the terrible opioid epidemic in the US, with few people realizing this was a serious invasion of medical confidentiality and that doctors may now be reluctant to prescribe these meds to people who actually need them for serious pain management or disabling anxiety. Can you imagine police departments having all this data about people’s medication. It is appalling and utterly stupid.

    • I know, right?!?! It’s absurd that personal and medical details are in the hands of people who don’t need to have those details. And to think that all these counterproductive laws and policies were thought of and passed by so-called experts and other people in positions of power, who are supposed to persuade people to get tested and get treatment, and yet they are likely to cause the opposite instead. It’s so absurd and frustrating, and so scary for those affected.

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts, Cindy! Hugs, my friend.

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