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Medical advances help insurers open up to HIV patients

Insurers say they are taking a more relaxed approach to applications from people with HIV.

“People with HIV is not such a big issue now,” ClearView MD Simon Swanson told Life+Health insuranceNEWS.com.au. “Some insurers are issuing cover for people with HIV using a limited-duration policy.”

Trauma insurance is available for people who contract the virus medically or through work-related incidents, Mr Swanson says. But if it was acquired through leisure activity, cover would be refused.

“Insurers are slowly loosening up the requirements for people with HIV, and that is a good news story.”

Between 1982 and December 31 2011, 31,645 cases of HIV were diagnosed in Australia, according to the Australian Federation of AIDS Organisations. About 24,000 people currently live with the virus.

AMP Chief Underwriter Deb Pitcher says the insurer keeps “a close eye on medical advances” concerning HIV and AIDS.  

“It’s important for us to be clear about how these developments affect the lives of people with these conditions.

“Will it mean they will be able to better manage their condition or be less likely to suffer complications, or will their quality of life be improved? All these factors come into play when insurers make decisions about offering life insurance.”

In the past 15 years medical advances have led to better treatments for HIV and AIDS.

US doctors recently reported the apparent suppression of HIV in two patients who received bone marrow stem cell transplants.

The pair were on long-term drug therapy to control the virus and had the transplants after developing lymphoma. They have since been off antiretroviral drugs for 15 weeks and seven weeks.

Swiss Re says HIV is no longer considered a death sentence. Instead it is seen as a chronic disease, which is insurable.

“Some companies have been striving to offer life insurance to HIV individuals for some time,” it said in a statement to Life+Health insuranceNEWS.com.au.

“What is new is that recent studies give insurers sufficient, credible data on which they can offer longer durations of cover at a cheaper price.”

The reinsurer says policies of up to 25 years are now possible. But once HIV overwhelms a patient’s immune system, opportunistic infections lead to complications.

“Despite medical progress, those whose disease has progressed to AIDS will likely remain uninsurable until medical science has found a way to reverse this state.”

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