Life insurance is finally being offered to people with human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) as their life expectancies are seen to be longer than previously thought – and may in fact may be closer to those of uninfected individuals.
Prudential Financial Inc. partnered with AEQUALIS, a financial startup serving HIV patients after researching data on HIV/AIDS, such as medical underwriting and life expectancy. AEQUALIS will manage the insurance application process and provide details to insurance agents and consumers.
The announcement came Tuesday during the observance of World AIDS Day.
"People with HIV (have) much longer life expectancies than insurance companies gave them credit for," said Bill Grant, co-founder of AEQUALIS.
According to Grant, HIV-positive individuals were unfairly ignored by the life insurance market – denied life insurance coverage.
The coverage, coming in the form of convertible 10- or 15-year policies, is the first of its kind to be publicly announced by a major American insurance company, showing that HIV/AIDS is no longer the death sentence it was widely believed to be, but instead a chronic yet manageable condition.
In a statement, Mike McFarland, vice-president of underwriting for Prudential, said the advances in successfully treating HIV patients that allows them to offer life insurance is a “significant step in the right direction."
Statistics show that HIV-positive people are indeed living longer; some patients in the U.S. and Canada diagnosed at a young age can now survive into their 70s. While the cure is still unknown, patients have improved access and adherence to drug therapy.
In 2013, research showed that a 20-year-old who is just diagnosed with HIV and who begins therapy right away can expect to live for another 50 years.
Dr. Michelle Cespedes of NYC’s Mount Sinai School of Medicine pointed to new therapies for this development, as well as the effective treatment of diseases linked to HIV and aging. "There are more and more clinical trials looking at how we can intervene on these comorbidities," she said.
For POZ Magazine editor-in-chief Oriol Gutierrez, mental health is also a crucial aspect to address for long-term survival, particularly of those who survived the worst of the HIV epidemic a couple of decades before.
Gutierrez said there is now “a lot of focus on resurrecting support groups for survivors.”
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimate that over 1.2 million Americans are living with HIV, the virus that leads to AIDS. About 50,000 new cases of the virus are diagnosed every year.
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