August 28, 2017 – The Legal Action Center, AIDS Law Project of Pennsylvania, and Berger & Montague, P.C. filed a federal class action lawsuit today against Aetna for its repeated failure to respect the privacy rights of people taking HIV medication by mailing its customers Aetna envelopes where their HIV medication was visible through the large transparent window of the envelopes. The lawsuit, filed in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, contends that the insurer’s mailing violated several laws by revealing highly confidential HIV information of approximately 12,000 customers in at least 23 states.
According to the complaint, the lead plaintiff’s sister learned that he was taking HIV medication from an unopened large-window of an Aetna envelope that revealed the highly confidential information. The plaintiff, identified by the pseudonym Andrew Beckett in the complaint, does not have HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, but takes Pre-exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP), a regimen that helps prevent a person from acquiring HIV.
Widespread stigma still exists about HIV and AIDS, leading to discrimination in employment, housing, education and health care, and to violence. The lawsuit filed today alleges that the information about HIV medication was clearly visible through the large transparent window of the Aetna envelope, and charges Aetna with carelessly and impermissibly revealing highly confidential HIV information of customers to their family members, roommates, friends, neighbors, landlords, mail carriers, and even complete strangers.
In today’s press release, Legal Action Center’s legal director, Sally Friedman, said that “Aetna’s unprecedented HIV privacy breach has caused turmoil in people’s lives. Some have lost housing, and others have been shunned by loved ones because of the enormous stigma that HIV still carries. This case seeks justice for these individuals. Insurers like Aetna must be held accountable when they fail to vigorously protect people’s most private health information.”
Those affected by Aetna’s privacy breach should contact the AIDS Law Project of Pennsylvania (215-587-9377). Additional information about this lawsuit is available at www.aidslawpa.org.