Trending News Today: Aetna Accidentally Outs Status of Thousands of HIV-Positive Customers

Top news of the day from across the health care landscape.

Insurance giant Aetna accidentally displayed the status of their HIV-positive customers through the plastic window of envelopes mailed to their home address, according to The Washington Post. In a recent statement, the company revealed that the letters were sent to approximately 12,000 customers across multiple states. The letters contained information regarding changes in pharmacy benefits and access to HIV mediations, the Post reported. Attorneys from the Legal Action Center and the AIDS Law Project of Pennsylvania demanded Aetna immediately cease sending mail that illegally disclosed they were taking HIV medications. Furthermore, they also demanded the insurer take necessary precautions to ensure a breach like this never happens again. The 2 legal groups wrote on behalf of Aetna customers in Arizona, California, Georgia, Illinois, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and the District of Columbia, according to the Post. Thus far, the attorneys have received 23 complaints regarding the issue, according to CNN.

The gut microbiome may fluctuate with the seasons, a new study of hunter-gathers in Africa suggests. According to The New York Times, investigators found that an indigenous ethnic group in north-central Tanzania, called the Hadza, have gut bacteria that swings through a predictable annual cycle. The findings show some bacterial species disappear entirely and then return, in a rhythm that likely reflects changes in the Hadza diet, according to the NY Times. This fluctuation of gut bacteria is rare in individuals living in industrial societies, according to the authors. “We don’t have a good grasp of what these seasonally varying microbes even do,” lead author Justin Sonnenburg told the NY Times. The authors said that comparing the microbes of hunter-gathers with individuals in different societies will provide a deeper understanding on how diets influence composition, according to the NY Times.

A recent analysis reveals antibiotic use among individuals in the United States has decreased over the past several years, according to The Washington Post. The analysis is based on data of 173 million insurance claims for individuals under 65 years with Blue Cross Blue Shield coverage who filled prescriptions between 2010 and 2016. The findings reflect an improvement in education about how excessive antibiotic use breeds drug resistant superbugs, the Post reported.