Discarded computer in Kentucky contained confidential AIDS information

By Advocate.com Editors

Originally published on Advocate.com February 11 2003 1:00 AM ET

A Kentucky health services cabinet computer that had been discarded for sale as surplus equipment contained confidential files identifying thousands of people with sexually transmitted diseases, including HIV, state auditor Ed Hatchett said Thursday. Under Kentucky law, the computer, like other surplus equipment, had to be offered for sale first to government agencies and nonprofit organizations, then to the public. Hatchett said the computer was one of eight selected at random by another state agency for purchase, but was shown to already contain information. Hatchett's office ran tests on the computer and discovered several thousand files, including files on the state's HIV patients, which included names and addresses of the HIV-positive state residents. "It's a terrible security breach," Hatchett said.

Health services secretary Marcia Morgan said the computer came from an agency in her cabinet that deals with counseling on STDs and HIV. The computer was used from 1995 to 1999, and its hard drive was supposed to have been wiped clean before the surplus sale. She noted that the computer was never out of government hands but said she has ordered an internal investigation to determine how the lapse occurred and how a recurrence could be prevented.