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Whether a diagnosis of HIV or cancer, Life Insurance is still available

Charlie Campbell, Policy Adviser, Protection and Health, ABI Charlie Campbell, Policy Adviser, Protection and Health, ABI

On Monday morning, I woke up at 5am on the 15th floor of the Holiday Inn in Media City, Salford Keys. I was due on BBC Breakfast to talk about our new consumer guide on HIV and Life Insurance. HIV has been in the news a lot this past week, but our message was to let people living with HIV know that, following a diagnosis, life insurance cover can still be bought and is still valid if already in place.

A sensitive and very serious subject, it probably isn’t the issue that most would choose for their TV debut, particularly when insurers have in the past come under some criticism for being slow to move with the times on HIV. But then that is why this was an important piece of work for us to do, and an important message to get out about the progress insurers have made in recent years: that following a diagnosis of HIV, or any other condition, when there are many concerns to deal with, the need for suitable financial a safety net can become starker than before.

Following research that showed over a fifth - 22% - of people cancel their life insurance following a HIV diagnosis, believing their policy to now be invalid, it was clear that the insurance industry needed to do more to let people living with HIV know that insurers are catching up and moving with the times. That’s why we worked with HIV charities and organisations, such as the National Aids Trust, HIV Scotland and the Terrence Higgins Trust, to try and address the perception that having HIV means you cannot be covered by life insurance.

Five minutes before I was due on the red sofa – which actually turned out to be a high stool prone to unrequested spinning – I was asked by the producer if we could also talk about life insurance for those with cancer, since the good news from Macmillan of improved cancer survival rates was the BBC’s headline story of the day. No one wants to be blindsided just before an interview with a change when you’ve been preparing for something else, but expanding the discussion to also talk about cancer actually helped.

[pullquote]Insurers are now able to provide that reassurance to many people who they could previously not, including those with HIV.[/pullquote]

Whilst we want to focus on misconceptions about HIV and life insurance, our wider message is that HIV is no longer the outlier in insurance that it once was, and that it is treated much like any other condition, as is cancer.  Just as society understands more about cancer, compared to 20 years ago, leading to changing perceptions, the same is true for insurers in how they treat HIV. Most of that understanding is also due to greater knowledge about the treatments available and how improvements have led to people with HIV living longer, healthier lives. That is how insurers work. They look at how medical advancements are leading to people living longer with medical conditions, which then allows them to widen the availability of cover to people who previously wouldn’t have been insurable.

Life insurance provides reassurance to someone that their loved ones will have some financial security should they die. Insurers are now able to provide that reassurance to many people who they could previously not, including those with HIV.

Last updated 05/08/2016