Insurance firms here promise not to use leaked HIV data

The names and contact details of 14,200 people, both locals and foreigners, on the HIV Registry were stolen from the Ministry of Health between March 2012 and May 2016.
The names and contact details of 14,200 people, both locals and foreigners, on the HIV Registry were stolen from the Ministry of Health between March 2012 and May 2016.PHOTO: ST FILE

People on the HIV Registry need not fear their coverage will be affected in any way

Insurance companies in Singapore have promised not to use any of the leaked information on more than 14,000 people with HIV "for any purpose whatsoever".

The Life Insurance Association (LIA) issued a statement yesterday assuring policyholders that insurers will not seek any of the leaked data, meaning that people on the HIV Registry whose data was leaked need not fear their life or health insurance coverage will be compromised in any way.

It added: "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."

The names and contact details of 14,200 people, both locals and foreigners, on the HIV Registry were stolen from the Ministry of Health (MOH) between March 2012 and May 2016. The information was made public last month and later blocked. However, there is nothing to stop the person who leaked the information online from publishing the information again.

About 3,500 Singaporeans and permanent residents who were on the registry up to 2013 are still alive.

The Singaporean doctor who took the information from the ministry, Ler Teck Siang, has been charged under the Official Secrets Act. He also faces charges for falsifying his husband's blood test, as well as for drug trafficking.

The confidential information of people diagnosed here with HIV was released on the Internet by his husband, American Mikhy Farrera Brochez, who was deported from Singapore last year after serving more than two years in jail for falsifying his blood test. The two men had got married in the United States.

 
 
 
 
 

Brochez had HIV, but in order to get an Employment Pass, needed a clean record. Ler, who is a doctor, used his blood for Brochez's test.

The LIA reiterated that no one will be discriminated against as a result of the leak. It said that it noted the concerns "affected individuals may have in relation to any potential impact on their life or health insurance policies".

It added: "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."

While approving what the insurance companies here are doing, Dr Roy Chan, founding president of Action for Aids (Singapore), said people living with HIV "are rarely able to purchase health or life insurance".

The exception is MediShield Life, the government-run health insurance that covers everyone, even those with pre-existing diseases, for life. However, Dr Chan, a former head of the National Skin Centre, said he was "happy to hear that LIA will not condone the use of misappropriated personal data".

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 02, 2019, with the headline 'Insurance firms here promise not to use leaked HIV data'. Print Edition | Subscribe