HIV Privacy Breach Lawsuit Reaches Settlement


Aetna has reached a settlement worth $17.1 million in the lawsuit brought about by the inadvertent sharing of the HIV status of around 12,000 Aetna members.

The privacy breach occurred in July 2017, when letters outlining that beneficiaries could now pick up their medications in person were sent in envelopes with large address windows which made private health information visible.

The lawsuit was brought by the AIDS Law Project of Pennsylvania, Legal Action Center and Berger & Montage P.C. on behalf of the plaintiffs (patients on HIV medication or those taking PrEP for prevention). The settlement will be distributed as at least a $500 base payment to those whose privacy was breached. An additional $75 dollar payment will be provided to those whose health information was provided to Aetna's legal counsel and mail vendor. 

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Affected individuals now also have the opportunity to file for monetary relief for financial or emotional damage caused by the breach. In September of last year, Aetna announced a program for individuals who were affected by the breach, which offered reimbursement and access to counselling. "Through our outreach efforts, immediate relief program and this settlement we have worked to address the potential impact to members following this unfortunate incident," Aetna said in a statement given to CNN.

The letter which caused the breach was itself a response to a previous lawsuit filed by plaintiff's claiming Aetna's requirement of receiving HIV medications through the mail jeopardized their privacy. The letter stated how members were no longer required to order their medications through the mail as a result of this lawsuit.

For more information visit aidslawpa.org.