Mailing breached HIV privacy of customers

Aetna letters' windows showed names of medications

FILE PHOTO: A trader points up at a display on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange August 20, 2012.  REUTERS/Brendan McDermid/File Photo
FILE PHOTO: A trader points up at a display on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange August 20, 2012. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid/File Photo

Aetna last month breached the privacy of some of its customers with HIV when the Connecticut health insurance company sent a letter with instructions on how to fill prescriptions for HIV medications.

The envelope had a plastic window that in some cases showed not just the customer’s name and address, but also the names of medications, exposing some recipients’ HIV status.

The casual disclosure of a person’s HIV status or use of HIV medication by Aetna is far more than a violation of the law, said Ronda B. Goldfein, executive director of the AIDS Law Project of Pennsylvania, in Philadelphia.

“It creates a tangible risk of violence, discrimination and other trauma,” she said.

The breach occurred July 28 in a mailing to about 12,000 customers. Aetna found out about the problem on July 31, the company told customers in a letter disclosing the breach.

“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,” a company spokesman said in an email.

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