Health News

Envelopes From Aetna Publicly Reveal Customers’ HIV Status

Photo from Pixabay

Health care company Aetna sent out envelopes to its customers that revealed their HIV status at a glance, according to the Legal Action Center and the AIDS Law Project of Pennsylvania.

Both legal organizations and six others are representing customers who were severely affected after friends and neighbors saw the envelopes and learned of their HIV conditions, CNN reports. Lawyers sent out a letter to Aetna on Thursday on behalf of their clients, calling on the company to change how they mail their results.

Aetna confirmed that they sent letters out to some 12,000 customers. The law firms announced in a news release that they have received 23 complaints so far, and more are expected to join them.

The company’s letters had instructions on how to fill prescriptions and were sent out to customers who were already taking HIV medications, and pre-exposure prophylaxis or PrEP, which helps prevent HIV. The information could clearly be read in a transparent window on the envelopes.

Sally Friedman, legal director of the Legal Action Center, said,

I know of someone who has been kicked out of his home because somebody who saw his envelope learned his HIV status.

Friedman is coordinating the lawyers, along with Ronda B. Goldfein, executive director of the AIDS Law Project of Pennsylvania.

There are customers in Arizona, California, Georgia, Illinois, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania and the District of Columbia who have all sought out attorneys, the organizations told Aetna.

Friedman said, “People with HIV need to feel they can seek medical help without their private information being illegally shared with neighbors, family, etc. So when an insurance company breaches confidentiality in this fashion, it can deter people from getting health care.”

Aetna was made aware of the problem on July 31, after the letters were mailed on July 28. According to their investigation, the vendor that handled the letters used a windowed envelope, and the paper may have shifted to reveal the information.

The company released a statement saying, “We sincerely apologize to those affected by a mailing issue that inadvertently exposed the personal health information of some Aetna members. This type of mistake is unacceptable, and we are undertaking a full review of our processes to ensure something like this never happens again.”

Click to comment
To Top

Hi - Get Important Content Like This Delivered Directly To You

Get important content and more delivered to you once or twice a week.

We don't want an impostor using your email address so please look for an email from us and click the link to confirm your email address.