Still fresh from Singapore's worst cyber attack, when hackers infiltrated the computers of SingHealth and stole the personal particulars of 1.5 million patients, including Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, Singaporeans now have to tackle the consequences of an outrageous HIV data leak. Confidential information of 14,200 people with HIV, including their names, contact details and medical information, has been stolen and leaked online. While the law pursues the fraudster responsible and anyone else who may have been culpable, the crucial question is how Singapore society handles the consequences of the leak.
Unlike even the striking SingHealth attack, this egregious outrage involves a group of people who are vulnerable not only to the physical disease but to the social opprobrium often associated with it, with some people going so far as to even argue that it is a moral disease. The danger is that sufferers might fall victim to societal intrusion that stigmatises them by revealing their identities even to those who are beyond friends, colleagues and family members. Naturally, the community of those who are affected will be traumatised by the prospect of victimhood. However, since people who are not affected by HIV inhabit the same rational space as those with the virus, it is essential that society stand by those who are at danger of ostracism. Singaporeans can play their part by not transmitting information on affected individuals that they encounter online because of the leak.