Wednesday, March 16, 2005

Letters to HIV positive Palm Beach County residents come as a surprise following e-mail gaffe

A little while ago, I blogged about the accidental e-mailing of a list of HIV positive residents of Palm Beach County in Florida (see PIPEDA and Canadian Privacy Law: E-mail gaffe reveals HIV, AIDS names). Now, a number of HIV patients in the same county have received anonymous letters indicating their names had appeared on a list of HIV/AIDS patients in the county. County officials say the incidents are unrelated, but the coincidence is puzzling:

Letters a shock to HIV positive:

"Palm Beach County's health chief says an anonymous mailing is separate from the e-mail leak.

By Jane Daugherty
Palm Beach Post Staff Writer

Wednesday, March 16, 2005

WEST PALM BEACH — Three law enforcement agencies have launched a criminal investigation to find out who is sending letters threatening the privacy of the 4,500 AIDS patients and 2,000 people who are HIV-positive in Palm Beach County.

One of the recipients of a letter postmarked March 8 told The Palm Beach Post Tuesday, "I'm very upset about this. I've been HIV-positive for a long time and, thankfully, I'm OK, but I'm looking for a job. Who is going to hire me if someone reveals my HIV status? This is a terrible thing."

He gave his name and phone number but asked that he not be identified in print because of the stigma associated with AIDS.

The otherwise innocuous letter with no return address that he and others received at their homes last week said, "Your name appeared on a list of HIV/AIDS patients for Palm Beach County."

A list of patients was inadvertently e-mailed last month to 800 Palm Beach County Health Department employees, but health officials do not believe the recent mailing used the same list because it did not include addresses.

"This is a separate incident, and I regard this as terrorism," department Director Dr. Jean Malecki said Tuesday. She confirmed that she turned two of the letters over to law enforcement investigators Tuesday and asked for a criminal investigation...."

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