Financial services sector fails people living with HIV


 

People living with HIV are habitually barred from accessing financial services and products that require life insurance and that many South Africans take for granted, such as homeloans.

“The financial services sector – not only in South Africa but in many countries around the world – is failing these people, many of whom are productive members of society and still have a good life expectancy of 20, 30 or more years after being diagnosed,” says AllLife Managing Director Ross Beerman.

Beerman is passionate about changing this, and he believes that life insurance is a key step in correcting this prejudice.

He explains that traditional life companies require a negative HIV test in order to provide life cover. “They reject people who test positive and generally offer them no viable alternatives with regard to accessing cover.”

Slamming the door on life insurance for people living with HIV also prevents them from accessing many other financial services – most of which are essential for anyone living in today’s world.

“For example, it is virtually impossible to get a mortgage bond – even a small one – as ceded life insurance is commonly required to secure a home loan, even with all other criteria in place,” says Beerman.

He notes that the most tragic consequence of this situation is that people with HIV are prevented from living an otherwise normal life – which they are very capable of doing – and many become utterly despondent.

“After being rejected, many simply give up trying – because they believe the situation is hopeless.  Many don’t even start the application process, knowing they’ll be rejected. Depression is often the result”.

Beerman believes that, although some life companies are now at least directing HIV+ clients to AllLife, the financial services sector needs to take a long, hard look at how it serves people living with HIV and find feasible solutions that are financially viable and allow reasonable access. This, notes Beerman, will ultimately have a positive impact on the economy.

“It is completely achievable. The financial services sector needs to try harder,” says Beerman.

And Beerman walks the talk – as co-founder and managing director of specialist life insurance provider AllLife, which has been providing life insurance for people living with HIV since 2004.

Its innovative approach to life cover is unlocking access to financial markets for people living with HIV, as real participants. And in doing so, it is changing their lives by keeping them healthy and offering affordable life and disability cover.

AllLife has succeeded where others have failed, due to one simple difference – working together with its clients.

AllLife clients benefit from significant health management assistance, as AllLife approaches HIV as a chronic manageable disease and has built its offering around this. The foundation of AllLife’s approach is linked to assisting clients to manage their health and tracking adherence to health management protocols.

Dr Avron Urison, medical director at AllLife, says “our ability to monitor that AllLife clients remain adherent to the HIV management protocols, has been the cornerstone of provision of life insurance and disability cover”.

He continues “we recognise that clients who actively monitor the progress of the disease, and who responsibly follow the recommended medical treatment, can expect to live healthily, and should enjoy access to the same financial products available to non-HIV positive people.”

The results are staggering, with adherence rates far exceeding those in the healthcare management industry and clients showing a significant improvement in their health on an annual basis. Beerman adds “the health management function that we perform dramatically improves the health of our clients and, in turn, reduces their mortality risk. This enables us to provide affordable life and disability cover.”

The life policies are utilised for all the usual reasons people take out life insurance, such as taking care of dependents should anything happen, or ceding policies to banks to gain access to home and business loans.

“Our life insurance sends the powerful message that people living with HIV should plan to live long lives, not wait to die. This allows clients to think about their futures and start planning for their long-term financial needs,” says AllLife Managing Director Ross Beerman.

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