Advances in science enable cover for people living with HIV

Jaco Gouws1

Advances in science mean that HIV/AIDS can now be viewed as any other managed chronic condition, giving people living with the disease access to life, disability and severe illness cover for their businesses and families.

Jaco Gouws, Marketing Actuary at Old Mutual, says: “The massive resources allocated to HIV/AIDS in the last 25 years mean that it’s now one of the most researched and understood conditions in the world. And as that understanding has evolved, so has actuarial science, which has enabled us to refine our underwriting and provide comprehensive financial protection for those living with the disease.”

Gouws, speaking at a briefing ahead of World Aids Day on 1 December, discussed the advances in financial products to coincide with the massive progress in the treatment of HIV/AIDS. “Great strides in understanding the condition and advances in antiretroviral therapy have enabled us to group HIV/AIDS with other chronic conditions like diabetes and hypertension, which can be controlled with medication, therapies and management of lifestyle. It’s also enabled us to provide more affordable cover than ever before, because we now have a better understanding of each customer’s risk.”

Managing and living with HIV/AIDS has become significantly less onerous and expensive as the years have gone by, Gouws explained. This is due to the simplification and increased efficiency of treatment: 10 years ago, patients had to take around 20 pills a day and the medication had unpleasant side-effects. Today, that burden has been reduced to one pill daily.

Part of removing the stigma around HIV/AIDS is the ability of financial services providers to protect the most valuable asset of someone living with HIV, their income. This will allow protection of their families, business and their retirement savings, Gouws said. “People living with HIV now have the power to do great things with their money, just like everyone else,” he added.

Gouws noted that up to now separate products were offered to HIV+ individuals. That has changed and they are now offered a similar comprehensive range available to HIV- individuals. You can apply for cover with Old Mutual without being on or having to prove that you’re on antiretroviral treatment.

This all means that customers living with HIV can now do all the things people without HIV can do: acquire assets, obtain capital to start a business, get a bond and protect themselves, their family and their business against disability.

Old Mutual offers two suites of products. Old Mutual’s LifePlan offers death and disability cover. As only limited underwriting is required, cover is limited to R500 000. The other option, Greenlight, requires full underwriting including medical tests. A more comprehensive range of benefits including death, disability and severe illness (an industry first) can be offered on this option, as underwriting allows better understanding of the health of the person. For the first time, now you are not limited to the amount of cover you can apply for.

Gouws said: “We are particularly proud to offer severe illness protection. Cancer, heart disease and strokes don’t discriminate on your HIV status. You therefore need every chance to fight and recover from these diseases. HIV+ people can now do this with severe illness protection.” Customers should get advice before buying any financial product, Gouws said. “We are all unique and have specific financial needs. It’s important to speak to an adviser about which product best suits the needs of you, your family and business.”

Some stats on HIV (UNAIDS Report 2013):

• 35.5 million people infected worldwide

• 24 million people infected in Africa

• 5.5 million people infected in South Africa

• 9.7 million people on treatment; 26 million eligible for treatment

• Around 2 million in South Africa on treatment; another 1.8 million eligible for treatment

• 4 out of 5 started on treatment came from sub-Saharan Africa

• New WHO treatment guidelines announced in Kuala Lumpur in June 2013:

– Avert 3 million new deaths

– Prevent 3.5 million new infections between now and 2025

– CD4 count– 500 cells/mm3.

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