News Technology04 Feb 2019

Singapore:Insurers pledge to refrain from using leaked HIV data

| 04 Feb 2019

The Life Insurance Association Singapore (LIA Singapore) has given its reassurance that life insurers in the country will not seek out leaked HIV data.

On 28 January, the Ministry of Health (MOH) revealed that confidential information regarding 14,200 individuals diagnosed with HIV up to January 2013, and 2,400 of their contacts, is in the possession of an unauthorised person. The information has been illegally disclosed online.

In a statement, LIA Singapore said, ”We refer to the disclosure of information from the HIV Registry by an unauthorised person, and we note the concerns that affected individuals may have in relation to any potential impact on their life or health insurance policies. We would like to assure policyholders that life insurers will not seek out the leaked data for any purpose whatsoever.

“Should the information related to this incident be intentionally sent to life insurers, life insurers will not use the data and will inform the relevant authorities immediately. It is our goal to ensure that all our policyholders are treated fairly. Policyholders should be assured that life insurers will not unreasonably reject a claim or void a policy.”

The MOH has been working with the relevant parties to disable access to the information. The Ministry was informed on 22 January by the police about the leak.

The records are those of 5,400 Singaporeans diagnosed with HIV up to January 2013 and 8,800 foreigners diagnosed with HIV up to December 2011. The information includes their name, identification number, contact details, HIV test results and related medical information. The name, identification number, phone number and address of 2,400 individuals identified through contact tracing up to May 2007 are also included.

The confidential information is in the illegal possession of Mikhy K Farrera Brochez, a male US citizen who was residing in Singapore, on an employment pass, between January 2008 and June 2016. Brochez was remanded in prison in June 2016. He was convicted of numerous fraud and drug-related offences in March 2017, and sentenced to 28 months’ imprisonment. The fraud offences were in relation to Brochez lying about his HIV status to the Ministry of Manpower, in order to obtain and maintain his employment pass, furnishing false information to police officers during a criminal investigation, and using forged degree certificates in job applications. Upon completing his sentence, Brochez was deported from Singapore. He currently remains outside Singapore.

Brochez was a partner of Ler Teck Siang, a male Singaporean doctor. As the head of MOH’s National Public Health Unit (NPHU) from March 2012 to May 2013, Ler had authority to access information in the HIV Registry as required for his work. He resigned in January 2014. He was charged in court in June 2016 for offences under the Penal Code and the Official Secrets Act (OSA). In September 2018, Ler was convicted of abetting Brochez to commit cheating, and also of providing false information to the police and MOH. He was sentenced to 24 months’ imprisonment. Ler has appealed, and his appeal is scheduled to be heard in March 2019. In addition, Ler has been charged under the OSA for failing to take reasonable care of confidential information regarding HIV-positive patients. Ler’s charge under the OSA is pending before the Courts.

In May 2016, MOH had lodged a police report after receiving information that Brochez was in possession of confidential information that appeared to be from the HIV Registry. Their properties were searched, and all relevant material found were seized and secured by the police.

In May 2018, after Brochez had been deported from Singapore, MOH received information that Brochez still had part of the records he had in 2016.

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