Aetna reveals HIV status of thousands in mass mailing

Aug. 25 (UPI) — Healthcare insurer Aetna inadvertently revealed thousands of people’s HIV statuses in a mailing about new medication options to about 12,000 people last month, according to the Legal Action Center and the AIDS Law Project of Pennsylvania.

The mishap occurred after Aetna mailed the notice in an envelope with a name and address window large enough to show the beginning of the letter, which addresses the patient and their usage of HIV medication.

“Recipients were stunned when they realized information about HIV medication was clearly visible through the window on the envelope,” Legal Action Center and the AIDS Law Project of Pennsylvania said in a press release. The legal organizations said the incident violates federal and state privacy laws and exposes Aetna to a potential discrimination lawsuit.

Attorneys representing some of the patients sent a letter to Aetna demanding the mailings in the large window envelopes be stopped and have already caused serious damage to people’s personal lives.

“These privacy violations have caused incalculable harm to Aetna beneficiaries,” the letter states. “A number of the individuals who contacted the above-referenced organizations reported that family members and neighbors learned their confidential information regarding their use of HIV medications as a result of Aetna’s breach.”

“I know of someone who has been kicked out of his home because somebody who saw his envelope learned his HIV status,” said Sally Friedman, legal director of the Legal Action Center, according to CNN.

“This type of mistake is unacceptable,” Aetna said in a statement, according to Bloomberg. “We sincerely apologize to those affected by a mailing issue that inadvertently exposed the personal health information of some Aetna members.”