Tue | Jan 28, 2020

Jamaica AIDS Support welcomes Sagicor’s HIV coverage

Published:Friday | December 13, 2019 | 12:20 AM

Jamaica AIDS Support for Life (JASL) is heartened by the news that insurance company Sagicor will now be offering policies of up to $10 million to HIV-positive applicants. This bold move will now allow the over 32,000 Jamaicans living with the virus to gain access to substantial life-insurance coverage.

For decades, JASL and other civil-society partners have been lobbying for there to be an end to discriminatory practices among insurance companies in providing coverage for people living with HIV (PLHIV).

Patrick Lalor, policy and advocacy officer at JASL, said that Sagicor has opened a door that has been shut for far too long in the faces of many Jamaicans.

“We have dealt with cases in the past where our clients were unable to access insurance or given minimal coverage. When we reached out to the insurance companies, it was often postured that this is not discrimination because it is a part of their procedures for a range of illnesses of which HIV is a part. However, when we look on the range of illnesses within it, where science is with HIV now, it would be unfair or unreasonable to put someone in that category if they are adhering,” Lalor said.

Before this, the options for PLHIV only included access to coverage through guaranteed issue or coupon policies with a maximum coverage of $5 million. The new Sagicor package will be available to persons between the ages of 20 and 64 years old and will require applicants to provide a full medical history, HIV test results, and their physician’s report.

new approach

Mark Chisholm, executive vice-president of Sagicor Life, Individual Life Division, noted that the new approach was as a result of the noticeable advancements in antiretroviral (ARV) drugs over the years. ARVs are used to prevent a retrovirus, such as HIV, from replicating itself.

Taking the medication correctly can lead to viral suppression (a reduction of the virus in the blood) and the strengthening of the immune system. This will lead to dramatic reductions in HIV-associated morbidity and mortality. PLHIV are now leading long and healthy lives, and the disease is by no means a death sentence.

The call is now for other private-sector and public-sector organisations as well as the Government, to use the evidence that is now available regarding HIV to make bold policy shifts and more informed decisions.

“The evidence speaks for itself; where we are now with HIV treatment is not the same place when we just began. Persons should not be denied work because of their HIV status, they should not be required to disclose their status to get a job, and organisations should not fire workers should they learn of their positive status,” Chisolm said.

Other companies are charged to take a page from Sagicor’s book. The hope is that organisations will not sit and wait for the Government but will instead incorporate more inclusive policies and practices. JASL also calls on the Government of Jamaica to enact broad anti-discrimination legislation in addition to HIV-specific laws that will provide greater protection to vulnerable communities, including those living with HIV and AIDS.