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The world’s leading Aids insurer

04 December 2007 Michelle Schreuder

South Africa holds the unenviable position of world leader in number of HIV infections. This fact was revealed in the December 2007 AIDS Epidemic Update, compiled jointly by UNAIDS and the World Health Organisation (WHO). The report also reveals the magnitude of the problem on the global stage.

Best estimates put the total number of people living with HIV in 2007 at 33.2 million, with 2.5 million newly infected individuals and as many as 2.1million deaths. What is really frightening is that 76% of these deaths and 68% of new infections occur in the Sub-Saharan Africa region. The report qualifies these numbers, stating that they are estimates within a range – somewhere between the real-world best and worst case scenarios.

Africa remains a concern

While no country is unaffected by the epidemic, Sub-Saharan Africa remains a disaster area. Countries like Botswana, Lesotho, South Africa, Swaziland, Zambia and Zimbabwe all have extremely high population-based HIV prevalence (in excess of 15%). These figures are based on a survey of adults between 15 and 49 years – and were mostly conducted between 2004 and 2006. South Africa’s prevalence was 16.2% in 2005. Botswana’s was 25.2% in 2004!

The AIDS Epidemic Update relies on infection figures supplied by the South African Department of Health and summaries the situation as follows: “South Africa is the country with the largest number of HIV infections in the world. HIV prevalence data collected from the latest round of antenatal clinic surveillance suggest that HIV infection levels might be levelling off, with prevalence among pregnant women at 30% in 2005 and 29% in 2006. In addition, the decrease in HIV prevalence among young pregnant women (15–24 years) suggests a possible decline in the annual number of new infections. The epidemic varies considerably between provinces, from 15% in the Western Cape to 39% in the province of KwaZulu-Natal.”

A world leader in AIDS insurance

South Africa’s high HIV infection rate has meant life companies have had to find ways to accommodate HIV-positive people who require life insurance. This is a challenge which has been met in recent years with a number of small life companies leading the way in offering life cover to HIV-positive clients. AllLife and AltRisk have now been followed by South Africa’s largest life insurer Sanlam, which recently announced more affordable and flexible life and disability cover for people living with HIV.

One of the main factors assisting life insurers in offering suitable products is the improved management of the disease in South Africa. Management of the disease is a key aspect in most of the products offered. And with more than 300 000 HIV-Positive individuals receiving some form of antiretroviral therapy (ART) in the last year, insurance cover should continue to increase. Gerhard Joubert, chief executive of the Life Offices’ Association recently told Business Times “over the past decades vast improvements have taken place in the treatment of HIV/AIDS. Provider there is full compliance with ART prescriptions; HIV is now fast becoming a chronic treatable disease.”

To this day, South Africa remains one of only two countries that offer life cover to HIV-Positive clients. The other is the Netherlands.

A long way to go

The AIDS Epidemic Update notes that “Every day, over 6800 persons become infected with HIV and over 5700 persons die from AIDS, mostly because of inadequate access to HIV prevention and treatment services. The HIV pandemic remains the most serious of infectious disease challenges to public health.” Thus treatment and prevention should be the two main weapons employed by Health Departments around the world to tackle the epidemic.

South Africa got off to a slow start – largely due to the non-committal attitude of certain senior politicians. The result is that the country’s AIDS prevalence has not shown significant reductions like some of our Sub-Saharan counterparts. Hopefully not that government is more intent on rolling out antiretroviral drugs to AIDS sufferers the statistics will prove and inroads made into combating the disease.

Editor’s thoughts:
The life companies’ major concern with insuring HIV-Positive individuals has been the lack of data to complete the required actuarial calculations. As more individuals take up treatment, the pool of available data increases, and life companies will be able to price products better. Will we ever see HIV-Positive individuals added to the general risk pool, and policies priced accordingly? Add your comments below, or simply send them to gareth@fanews.co.za

Comments

Added by Dave Pietersen, 04 Dec 2007
Well the buck for the AIDS now has been passed onto insurers. With the reslut that premiums (including funeral assurance) will simply rise beyond the reach of the public aand will consequently fall away. Such will be resultant in pauper funerals taking place and that burden reverts back to the State. Assurers are no longer allowed to impose HIV/ AIDS exclusions so premium hikes to bould up reserves is iminent
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