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Removing the AIDS stigma allows the industry to offer landmark products

25 November 2013 Jonathan Faurie
Jonathan Faurie, FAnews Journalist

Jonathan Faurie, FAnews Journalist

While the world has had its fair share of wars, and deaths related to those conflicts, very few of us realise the devastating impact that diseases have had on the world’s population. Diseases such as the Black Plague, the Spanish Flu and Smallpox devastated the world population with each disease causing more deaths than both World Wars combined.

To put this in perspective, the Black Plague killed 25 million people while the Spanish Flu accounted for between 50 to 100 million deaths. Smallpox was by far the biggest killer with between 300 and 500 million deaths. Fortunately, a cure has been found for these diseases which have not surfaced since the dawn of the new millennium.

However, AIDS, another one of those killers is still running rampant and has accounted for an estimated 36 million deaths while 35 million people globally live with HIV, which develops into AIDS.

Recent medical advances in AIDS research has made the disease more manageable, and although there is no known cure for the disease, the current manageability of the disease has seen financial services providers starting to treat the disease as a chronic condition.

Power to the people

Jaco Gouws, Marketing Actuary at Old Mutual, says, "The massive resources allocated to HIV/AIDS in the last 25 years means 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 also enabled us to provide more affordable cover than ever before, because we now have a better understanding of each customer's risk.”

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.

Comprehensive offering

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 healthy 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 the loss of an income.

Editor's Thoughts:
Pricing this risk when it comes to HIV and clients can prove to be a challenge. There are a lot of metrics that companies have to take into consideration, both medical and lifestyle. In order to price the risk accurately, companies will have to rely on the honesty of clients, and with the stigma around AIDS, complete disclosure may be a problem. Please comment below, interact with us on Twitter at @fanews_online or email me your thoughts jonathan@fanews.co.za.

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