Life cover a boon for clients

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - NEWS - NONI MOKATI

FOR the in­sur­ance in­dus­try, man­ag­ing clients with HIV over the past decade has been a game-changer.

While there is no law that com­pels com­pa­nies to pro­vide life in­sur­ance for in­di­vid­u­als liv­ing with HIV/Aids, in­sur­ance com­pa­nies have had to push aside the no­tion of “risks” to cre­ate aware­ness that the syn­drome is not a death sen­tence, and to de­sign prod­ucts ac­cord­ingly.

“Slightly de­ranged is what many thought of our idea,” Ross Beer­man says in re­call­ing the re­ac­tion when he and his busi­ness part­ners in­tro­duced the con­cept of pro­vid­ing ex­clu­sive life in­sur­ance cover to HIV-pos­i­tive peo­ple 10 years ago.

“It is only when we ex­plained to them that we would be walk­ing a jour­ney with our clients that they warmed to the idea. Our pur­pose was to pull to­gether and de­liver to make it real.”

In 2005, Beer­man’s Al­lLife be­came the first to of­fer un­der­writ­ten whole life cover ex­clu­sively to HIV- pos­i­tive in­di­vid­u­als. The re­sponse has been phe­nom­e­nal, he said.

At first the com­pany re­ceived more than 10 000 calls a month.

Peo­ple have be­come more com­fort­able speak­ing about their HIV sta­tus. “Our con­sul­tants are trained well.”

If prospec­tive clients’ CD4 counts are be­low 200, the com­pany does not sign them up.

“Our con­sul­tants en­cour­age peo­ple to get that num­ber back up. But if you are al­ready cov­ered with us, the drop in your CD4 count will have no bear­ing on your cover,” Beer­man ex­plained.

The com­pany’s con­sul­tants make monthly calls to check on clients and re­mind them to take their ARVs and lead healthy life­styles.

Sixty per­cent of the com­pany’s clients are women.

Re­search shows that the risk and preva­lence of in­fec­tion is high­est among women aged be­tween 15 and 24. Women are at five times more at risk than men. Beer­man also says more sin­gle women and moth­ers sign up for life cover.

Ryan Cheg­wid­den, head of prod­uct and tech­ni­cal at Hol­lard Life, said the com­pany first cov­ered an HIV-pos­i­tive client in 1999. Take-up had been rea­son­able.

“We went this way be­cause the pro­por­tion of our pol­i­cy­hold­ers who have this ben­e­fit is lower than the HIV preva­lence in our tar­get mar­ket,” he said.

“HIV- pos­i­tive clients do pay more, just as clients with other chronic ill­nesses pay more for their cover.”

San­lam of­fers a stan­dard life cover for clients, ir­re­spec­tive of their HIV sta­tus.

“Med­i­cal re­search shows the prog­no­sis for HIV with op­ti­mal treat­ment and com­pli­ance is bet­ter than ex­pected. This has al­lowed San­lam to of­fer even bet­ter terms to HIV- pos­i­tive clients,” said San­lam med­i­cal ad­viser Dr Jack van Zyl.

“We are see­ing more peo­ple liv­ing with HIV com­ing for­ward… to pur­chase cover.”

There were many pos­i­tive signs that the stigma as­so­ci­ated with HIV was shift­ing, Van Zyl added.

PIC­TURE: REUTERS

COSTLY: A phar­ma­cist dis­penses an­tiretro­vi­ral drugs at the Mater Hos­pi­tal in Kenya’s cap­i­tal, Nairobi.

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