Aetna agreed to pay a total of $17,161,200 to be distributed among more than 11,000 health insurance customers across the country in a class action settlement regarding the violation of HIV privacy rights. The violations occurred when Aetna customers received letters with transparent windows large enough to reveal, without opening the envelope, that they were taking HIV-related medications. The disclosures affected both customers who are PLHIV and those who are on PrEP.
Plaintiffs alleged Aetna was responsible for financial and non-financial harm under claims of negligence, invasion of privacy, and Pennsylvania’s Confidentiality of HIV-Related Information Act, among other claims, for revealing HIV-related information to their family members, roommates, neighbors, landlords, mail carriers, and complete strangers. As part of the settlement, Aetna also agrees to take steps to improve and ensure compliance with privacy laws and regulations, including developing new policy for handling protected health information and providing training on federal and state privacy laws. The AIDS Law Project of Pennsylvania and the Legal Action Center of New York were involved in the litigation. The affected customers are entitled to automatic payment of either $75 or $500, and may also submit claims for financial and non-financial harm, up to $10,000 apiece for each type of claim. Lawyers handling the settlement are entitled to up to 25% of the amount of the settlement, as approved by the court.