fbpx


Hard questions being asked as Tan Chuan-Jin urges support for those affected by HIV data leak

Treat our fellow humans as fellow humans, with dignity and respect, care and compassion, he wrote.

Joshua Lee |Belmont Lay | January 30, 01:47 pm

Confidential information pertaining to 14,200 HIV-infected individuals were stolen from the Ministry of Health’s HIV Registry and leaked online.

These criminal actions were carried out by a deported American and conman, Mikhy K Farrera Brochez.

The information included HIV test results and related medical information, with names, identification numbers and contact details, such as phone number and address, exposed.

People who were affected by the leak told the media that that they are very worried, angry and fearful for themselves and their family, especially in an environment that largely stigmatises HIV.

Tan Chuan-Jin’s response

In response, Speaker of Parliament Tan Chuan-Jin has urged Singaporeans to support those who are affected by the leak.

In a Facebook post, Tan called for Singaporeans not to participate in the online hate, and instead, consider the real impact the leak has on people’s lives.

Tan cited his own experience of being “slammed, slimed, and burnt” in the public arena as he empathised with those affected.

Tan also advised people not to conflate LGBT issues with the data leak, saying that heterosexuals do contract HIV too.

“Whether you are for or against LGBT is irrelevant,” he wrote.

Tan ended his post with a reminder that HIV is less contagious than the common cough, cold, flu, measles and chicken pox:

“So let’s stay calm and support our fellow Singaporeans.”

Tan said it is completely within our abilities to treat fellow Singaporeans with dignity, respect, and compassion and can go a long way in de-stigmatising HIV.

Ex-Straits Times editor commiserates

At the same time, hard questions are being asked of the authorities.

Alan John, a retired deputy editor of The Straits Times with 35 years of experience in the publication, has raised his own concerns about the tardiness of the revelation of the whole affair to the public.

John commiserated with the victims and called for greater empathy, but not before expressing his shock that this incident had taken place in 2016 and was only revealed publicly now.

I’ve been stuck at the fact that there was this massive breach of the Official Secrets Act and it was kept quiet until this week. Police report made in 2016, quietly. A charge included in the doctor’s case, but it was stood down and it doesn’t look like any court reporter spotted it. Meanwhile, other individuals have been dealt with under the OSA for doing much, much less. Sigh!

Here is Tan’s Facebook post in full:

Why the two chaps did what they did? I’d never understand. The more important question now is what would we as Singaporeans do?

It is tremendously challenging for those whose names may be in the lists. They are fearful and traumatised. But they are fearful and traumatised because they fear the response and reactions of their loved ones, colleagues, friends. And the public. Our response.

We all know how nasty things can get. As a political leader, we get slammed, slimed and burnt in all shape and form. It’s a spectator sport. I’m sure it’d happen with this post too. But I hope we all realise that this is different because of the potential real impact it can have on people’s lives. Let us show that we can be different. Let us be empathetic and not participate in the online hate that may be generated. Make a stand. It is not acceptable. Even more critically, be mindful of how we respond in person. This is not the early years where people get hysterical about HIV because of a lack of knowledge. Whether you are for or against LGBT is irrelevant. For that matter, heterosexuals do contract HIV too. So please don’t drag these issues into the fray. Treat our fellow humans as fellow humans, with dignity and respect, care and compassion. It is within our abilities to do so. And do not share information when it is put out. Report to the authorities at 6325 9220

Please help share so that more can understand and reflect on what we all need to do. Remember. HIV is less contagious than your common cough, cold, flu, measles, chicken pox etc. So let’s stay calm and support our fellow Singaporeans.

Here is John’s Facebook post in full:

I’ve been stuck at the fact that there was this massive breach of the Official Secrets Act and it was kept quiet until this week. Police report made in 2016, quietly. A charge included in the doctor’s case, but it was stood down and it doesn’t look like any court reporter spotted it. Meanwhile, other individuals have been dealt with under the OSA for doing much, much less. Sigh!

For some years in the late 1990s when I helped at Action for AIDS’ anonymous blood testing centre at Kelantan Lane, I witnessed the anxiety of many people of all ages who came to be tested, and the anguish and tears of those who had to be told they’d tested positive. Although so much has changed in the treatment of people who are HIV positive, the stigma has not gone away, the ignorance and fear persist, and most people who are positive in Singapore still keep their status private. So what this horrible jerk has done by releasing the identities of people who tested positive is utterly cruel and truly, truly awful. None of us can imagine the anxiety of those who worry now that their HIV status is going to be exposed. So some of us will wonder why more was not done between 2016 and now to avoid that data breach coming to this.

If there is any good that can come of this terrible case, it is that more individuals living with HIV will now stand up and say: “You know what, I’m positive, I’m alive and I’m OK. You’re not OK with that? That’s your problem.” Fight the stigma harder. With the medication available, many are living normal lives and living long lives. If the Health Ministry wants to make amends to the HIV community for this breach of its confidential records, it can do more now to fight the persistent ignorance in Singapore that keeps people living with HIV in a state of fear of being found out. It’s a chronic medical condition, treatable.

More on the HIV data leak:

Workers’ Party Gerald Giam asks why MOH took 2 years to inform affected parties of HIV data leak

Deported American stole & leaked details of 14,200 HIV-infected people from MOH registry

Many HIV-infected persons in S’pore more vulnerable following leak: HIV researcher

Top images via Tan’s Facebook page

About Joshua Lee

Josh has found the perfect Nasi Padang combination. Ask him about it.

Morning Commute

Interesting stories to discuss with your colleagues in office later

Close