SANAC CIVIL SOCIETY FORUM WELCOMES THE POSITIVE SHIFT IN INSURANCE POLICY COVERAGE OF HIV-POSITIVE INDIVIDUALS

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Sanlam, Old Mutual and Liberty now provide full life cover to HIV positive individuals. Steve Letsike, chairperson of the SANAC Civil Society Forum, welcomed the decision and encourages other insurers to follow suit.

Johannesburg, 26 August 2014—The South African National AIDS Council (SANAC) Civil Society Forum (CSF) welcomes the recent positive shift in some of the major insurance companies’ attitude towards covering HIV positive individuals. This is a long awaited development. This change in attitude comes after years of engagement between the social justice organisation SECTION27 (a member of Legal and Human Rights Sector and CSF of SANAC) and the Association for Savings & Investment SA (ASISA) and its predecessor Life Offices’ Association (LOA), including threats to take legal action against several insurance companies.

Previously, the role played by the LOA and its successor, ASISA, ensured that discrimination against people with HIV had been systemic in nature. For almost a decade after antiretroviral treatment became available through the public health sector, the LOA (later ASISA) considered HIV infection to be an “uninsurable” condition. The organisation expressly sanctioned the inclusion and enforcement of HIV/AIDS exclusion in insurance policies.

The insurance sector has previously been, and to a large extent continues to be characterised by widespread unfair discrimination against people living with HIV. Until 2007, for example, it was a common practice for policies to include HIV/AIDS exclusion clauses that applied to all lump sum death and disability benefit claims. Such claims were triggered where it was established that the policyholder had HIV at the time of his or her death – regardless of the cause of death, or the person’s HIV status at the time the policy was taken out.

In 2004, insurance coverage for HIV positive individuals became available through AllLife but at very high prices, which excluded the majority of people living with HIV in the country.

Recent developments

Following the amendment of the ASISA protocol, Sanlam, Liberty and Old Mutual have introduced products available to people with HIV who seek full individual life cover. We further note the written commitment made by Outsurance and Metropolitan Life to review their discriminatory policies in this regard. We call upon these parties to expedite the process.

The change in attitude is also attributed to a study published in the April 2013 edition of PLOS Medicine, authored by Dr Leigh Johnson and others. The study shows that “an adult with HIV in South Africa who is medically eligible for ART, commenced treatment when his or her CD4 count was above 200 and has been adherent for a period of more than 24 months, has a “near-normal life expectancy” compared to an HIV-negative person of the same age.”

Despite the shift in the industry, the SANAC Civil Society Forum remains concerned about other insurance companies who have maintained their position by refusing to offer full life cover to HIV positive individuals. We call on these companies to desist from their discriminatory practices, as such discrimination is against the law and contrary to national policy on HIV. The inability of people with HIV to secure individual full life cover means that they not only have to suffer the indignity of their lives being described as “uninsurable“, but they face serious difficulties in accessing home loans, and in providing for their families and their children’s education – in the event of their deaths.

SANAC Civil Society Forum encourages SECTION27 and other civil society organisations to continue monitoring the industry to ensure the dignity and security of people living with HIV as enshrined in the Constitution of South Africa. Affected members of the public and their families are also urged to present evidence of unfair discrimination to the lawyers working on this issue.

For more information, please contact:

Steve Letsike (SANAC Civil Society Forum) on: 073 435 6501 or via email: msletsike@gmail.com

Violet Kaseke (SECTION27) on 073 717 8011 or via email: kaseke@section27.org.za

Notes:

Dr Leigh Johnson & Others, “Life Expectancies of South African Adults Starting Antiretroviral Treatment: Collaborative Analysis of Cohort Studies”. Available at

http://www.plosmedicine.org/article/info%3Adoi%2F10.1371%2Fjournal.pmed.1001418




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