The number of disability claims submitted by people living with HIV has fallen sharply over the past few years, according to statistics collated by insurance business Liberty Corporate
In a statement released yesterday Liberty Corporate, a division of financial services giant Liberty Group, said advancement in the treatment of HIV/AIDS has led to a sharp decrease in the number of disability claims being submitted by South Africans living with the disease.
This resonates with many other observations of how South Africa has managed to turnaround the fortunes of people living with HIV/AIDS in the past five years or so. A massive roll out of antiretroviral treatment has changed the situation of HIV/AIDS from being largely experienced as a terminal disease into a manageable chronic illness.
Graham Thomas, Head, Risk Product Solutions at Liberty Corporate, said the company’s Group Risk business has seen HIV drop from the number one claim cause for disability, to number two. “This has been accompanied by a downward trend in the percentage of disability and critical illness claims related to HIV, which can be attributed to a combination of ARV availability, better awareness, free testing and counselling, as well as better workplace accommodation of HIV positive people.”
Thomas said “It is very positive news that advancements in treatment have resulted in a better quality of life for those living with the disease. Many of those living with HIV/AIDS should no longer have to stay away from work for a prolonged period of time”
The Liberty Corporate statement emphasised that employers should recognise that staff members who have contracted the disease can manage it much like chronic diseases such as diabetes or cancer.
The statement noted that the data shows that many HIV/AIDS-related incapacity claimants can return to gainful employment when managed properly with ARVs and AIDS treatment and compliance. “As a result, the disease should no longer be a cause of a lengthy stay away from work or permanent disability, except in a few cases,” said Thomas.
He added that while fluctuating symptoms are common amongst people living with HIV, employers can make reasonable adjustments to accommodate those living with the disease in order to ensure they can continue their employment and provide for their families.