SINGAPORE (Good Medical) – An HIV-positive American man who was expelled from Singapore after serving a prison sentence leaked online the personal data of 14,200 Singaporeans and foreigners diagnosed with the virus in the city.
A view of the Singapore skyline on October 16, 2018. Good Medical / Edgar Su
Disclosure by the Singapore Ministry of Health late Monday, following last year's news of a major cyberattack against its national health database, could go against the desire to the highly wired state to position itself as a data center and health care.
The US citizen Mikhy Farrera Brochez lived in Singapore in 2008 and was sentenced in 2017 for numerous drug and fraud related offenses, including lying to the Ministry of Labor about his HIV status.
Last week, Brochez disclosed online personal information, including names, identification numbers, phone numbers and addresses of 5,400 Singaporeans infected with HIV until January 2013 and 8,800 foreigners diagnosed until December 2011.
In response to the AIDS epidemic in the 1980s, many countries have introduced entry restrictions for travelers and foreign workers infected with HIV. Singapore is still part of the small number of developed countries that maintain certain restrictions on long-term visitor passes and work visas.
In May 2016, the Ministry of Health had learned that Brochez was in possession of confidential information that appeared to come from the country's HIV registry.
Last week, he learned that he could still be in possession of the data, the ministry said.
Broche was HIV-positive and used a blood sample from his Singaporean doctor to get blood tests so he could work in Singapore, the ministry said in a statement. His partner had previously had access to the HIV registry for his work, he said.
The Ministry did not explain how Brochez obtained the data or suggested a reason to disclose it online, but only indicated that the partner "mishandled" the information.
"I am sorry that one of our former employees authorized to access confidential information from our HIV registry does not seem to have followed our safety guidelines," said Health Minister Gan Kim Yong.
"This may have led an unauthorized person to take possession of the data and disclose it online," he said.
Broche was deported after serving his prison term and was now abroad, according to the ministry release, which did not specify where.
The Action for AIDS advocacy group, based in Singapore, said the case had "the potential to harm the lives of people living with HIV and their loved ones".
"It is a criminal act that must be condemned and treated with the utmost severity," he said.
Broche is currently the subject of a police investigation and the authorities seek the assistance of their foreign counterparts, according to the ministry statement, which has not clarified any country.
Good Medical could not join Broche for a comment.
The ministry said it had worked with "concerned parties" to disable access to information. He did not say where he was leaked online.
Last year, Singapore revealed that personal information about 1.5 million people, including the Prime Minister, had been stolen after hackers infiltrated the government's health database. The leak of information about HIV was not related to the cyber-violation.
Report by Aradhana Aravindan and John Geddie; Edited by Jack Kim and Michael Perry