China / Health

Joint WHO-UNAIDS Statement on HIV information leak

( Updated: 2016-07-18 19:25

The World Health Organization (WHO) and The Joint United Nations Program on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) are aware of reports of the suspected leak of confidential information about people living with HIV in China over the last week.

Chinese health and public security authorities are investigating what appears to be a serious case of fraud, whereby someone posing as a government official contacted people living with HIV and promised they would be provided with financial allowances in exchange for provision of personal information. Health authorities are also investigating how patient information systems were able to be breached and the personal details of people living with HIV were able to be accessed.

All patients have the right to know that their personal health information is confidential and secure. The right to confidentiality of personal information is especially important in the HIV response – because lack of confidentiality can deter people from getting tested for HIV and for accessing both HIV treatment and prevention tools that they need.

The leak of personal information of people infected with HIV is a violation of the fundamental right to patient confidentiality.

WHO and UNAIDS welcome the Chinese health authorities’ and Community Based Organizations' swift response to this incident – including the investigations currently underway into the alleged fraudulent activity which appears to have occurred, as well as the information security breach which enabled information about people living with HIV to be accessed by people without authority to do so.

WHO and UNAIDS also welcomes the National Health and Family Planning Commission’s (NHFPC's) and China Centre for Disease Control and Prevention's (CDC's) commitment to strengthening HIV-related information security. WHO and UNAIDS agree that it is crucially important to strengthen existing systems so that this kind of breach does not occur again. Security of personal and health information of people living with HIV is crucial for an effective HIV response at every stage of the HIV response: from surveillance, prevention, testing, and treatment, to the provision of other care and support services.

WHO and UNAIDS stand ready to provide any support necessary to Chinese government health authorities and civil society groups in responding to this incident, and in the implementation of subsequent remedies to strengthen HIV-related health information security in light of this incident.

The statement is made by Dr Bernhard Schwartlander, WHO Representative & Dr Catherine Sozi, UNAIDS Country Director

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