Leaks that might bleed

On 28 January 2019, MOH reported that the HIV-positive status of 14,200 people had been leaked online by American Mikhy K Farrera Brochez – along with confidential information, such as their identification numbers and contact details.

Media reports noted that Brochez had illegally obtained the information from his partner, Singaporean doctor Ler Teck Siang, who had access to the information via the MOH’s HIV registry. Brochez was deported from Singapore last April, after he was convicted of fraud and drug-related offences, and sentenced to 28 months’ jail.

Confidentiality of HIV status

Brochez’s actions have truly “stirred shit”, especially for people have not disclosed their HIV status to their loved ones. HIV-related information is private and should not be shared without the permission of the affected person, as people with HIV tend to face discrimination.

Those affected by the incident may experience severe psychological distress as they would have to live with the constant fear of being “outcasted” by friends, family or even colleagues. President of Action for Aids (AFA), Professor Roy Chan, added that he was “deeply troubled” by the incident and this “criminal act that should be condemned and answered in the most severe terms possible”.

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Fear of Getting Tested for HIV

Apart from confidentiality issues, this incident may further discourage the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, questioning, queer and gender-diverse (LGBTQ+) Singaporeans from getting tested for HIV, and seeking treatment locally for fear that their identity might be leaked.

This is because people will only get tested and treated for HIV, if they know their HIV status will be kept private and confidential. This incident, especially coming at the heel of the SingHealth cyberattack, just come to show how “solid” (or not) our healthcare system is. *sarcastic laughter*

Mr Leow Yangfa, 44, executive director of Oogachaga, a non-profit organisation that works with the LGBTQ+ community said that “this latest leak will contribute to an additional layer of fear – the fear of their HIV status being exposed to others without their consent, when they have been trying so hard to keep it protected.”

Impact on the LGBTQ+ Community

Last year, Pink Dot celebrated its decade-long fight for acceptance and equal rights in Singapore. Unfortunately, this incident would possibly cast a negative light on the LGBTQ+ community. Firstly, at the centre of the incident is a gay couple – one who mishandled the confidential data, the other who leaked the data.

Secondly, the leaked data showed that majority of those affected were men (presumably gay), possibly reinforcing the stereotype that gay men often engaged in casual sex. This would further strengthen the negative sentiments towards the community, perhaps even negating all the good work that LGBTQ+ organisations have achieved so far.

Haiz, don’t know if this Government is pure suay or incompetence, with some many issues cropping out recently, like the Singapore-Malaysia bilateral relations and the reservist death of Aloysius Pang.

While MOH should still be held responsible for the incident and their Minister had apologised, I think we must not forget that the siao lang, Brochez, is main cause for the data leak – so technically this incident is really beyond MOH’s control?

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Perhaps, the only thing we can do now is to refrain from speculating and gossip, and to avoid sharing the confidential data when we see it lor. Just help one another lah, so that we can have a peaceful CNY.