Aetna mailed envelopes displaying the HIV status of some of its customers in at least eight states and Washington, D.C., according to CNN.
CNN reported Friday that the Legal Action Center, the AIDS Law Project of Pennsylvania and six other organizations are now representing some of the customers impacted.
The group was reportedly devastated when friends and neighbors learned they suffer from HIV off of information on envelopes the health care company mailed.
Attorneys on Thursday sent a demand to Aetna on behalf of those impacted, urging it to stop sending messages in that style and make a plan to change its communications process.
Aetna said the letters went to about 12,000 customers, and the law firms noted they have gotten 23 complaints so far, with more expected.
Some Twitter users on Friday criticized Aetna for seemingly exposing its customers’ private information.
Thursday’s demand letter said people in Arizona, California, Georgia, Illinois, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania and D.C. had been affected.
“Aetna’s privacy violation devastated people whose neighbors and family learned their immediate health information,” Sally Friedman, legal director of the Legal Action Center in New York City, said in the letter. "They also were shocked that their health insurer would utterly disregard their privacy rights."
Thursday’s letters said the envelopes featured a clear window that outed information about customers’ HIV medication.
The letters reportedly reached people currently on HIV medication, as well as those on Pre-exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP), a pill that helps prevent individuals from getting HIV.
Aetna sent a letter earlier this week detailing that the letters were mailed on July 28 and that it became aware of the situation three days later.
The company determined on August 2 that the vendor handling its mailings used a windowed envelope that in some cases may have made personal health information visible.
“We sincerely apologize to those affected by a mailing issue that inadvertently exposed the personal health information of some Aetna members,” it said.
“This type of mistake is unacceptable, and we are undertaking a full review of our processes to ensure something like this never happens again.”