Picture: THINKSTOCK
Picture: THINKSTOCK

Singapore — Singapore vowed on Tuesday that it would bring back and prosecute a US man accused of leaking data on thousands of people with HIV, after the breach caused widespread anger.

The health ministry announced in January that the confidential information of 14,200 people diagnosed with the virus that causes AIDS had been dumped online, with foreigners the majority of those affected.

Mikhy Farrera Brochez, an HIV-positive man who used to live in the city-state, is believed to have obtained the information from his Singaporean doctor partner, who had access to the ministry's HIV registry.

The data leak, which included people's HIV status, names and addresses, has provoked an outcry, especially among the LGBT community and nongovernmental organisations involved in the fight against AIDS.

Speaking in parliament on Tuesday, health minister Gan Kim Yong described the release of the data as a "reprehensible act" and promised authorities would do all they could to bring him back to the city-state.

"Brochez is currently under police investigation for various offences," Gan said.

"The police are engaging their US counterparts and are seeking their assistance in the investigations against Brochez. The police will spare no effort pursuing all avenues to bring Brochez to justice."

Singapore and the US have an extradition treaty.

Brochez was jailed in Singapore in 2016 for lying about his HIV status, drug-related offences and fraud. He was released and deported to the US in 2018 after serving his sentence.

Local media have traced his latest whereabouts to Clark County in Kentucky.

Gan said authorities did not know at the time of Brochez's deportation that he was in possession of the HIV data, and denied his ministry sought to cover up the incident.

He said the ministry has worked with authorities to disable online access to the data and continues to scour the internet to prevent it being released again.

But he also warned it was possible Brochez still had more files in his possession.

Foreigners with HIV were, for many years, not allowed to set foot in Singapore at all. In 2015, authorities lifted the ban on foreigners with the virus making short visits but those seeking to work in Singapore must still pass a test.

The leak of HIV data was the second major breach of confidential information disclosed within months, after the health records of about 1.5-million Singaporeans were stolen by hackers in 2018.

AFP