In 2009, there were 83,000 cases of people infected with HIV of which 27% of those were unaware they had the condition.
That number rose in 2010 to 91,500 and by the end of 2011, rose again to 96,000 cases. So HIV diagnoses have been increasing, although the number of people living with HIV and unaware of it has declined.
Therefore, while the number of new cases is increasing, so too is awareness with more people being tested leading to diagnoses.
In light of the increases, the Association of British Insurers (ABI) has worked in conjunction with leading charities in their field to produce a new Guide to Life Insurance for Those Living with HIV.
The organisations consulted were:
Support and advice can be sought from any of the organisations listed above.
The ABI created the guide to insurance for HIV due to a widespread belief that if you’re diagnosed with HIV, you can’t get cover. And for those who already had life insurance in place, many were cancelling the policy immediately following their diagnosis, on the basis that they believe it to invalidate the policy. That can’t be further from the truth.
In fact, as it turns out…
If you already have life insurance, you don’t even need to tell your insurer that you’re diagnosed with HIV. If you’re already insured before a diagnosis, your policy will provide protection. It’s only when you have cause to believe you have a medical condition and don’t disclose that during the application process for your life insurance that it will be invalidated.
Assessing the level of risk for HIV
The Consumer Insurance Act 2013 was introduced to provide consumers with clarity over what information they need to disclose to insurers. One of the main changes was a move away from voluntary disclosure by consumers and instead put the burden on insurers to ask the right questions to find out relevant information about people’s medical situation.
For that reason, know that when you’re answering questions either on the phone or on a paper or online application, honesty is imperative.
Insurers will use your responses alongside statistical data from other sources to determine a level of risk and offer cover based on that or decline the cover if they feel the risk is too high. You will not be denied life insurance just because of an HIV diagnosis. If there is a denial, it’ll be due to a high level of risk, however, that could be six to twelve months after your application.
The second largest risk category is Black African heterosexual males and females. Of the newly diagnosed cases of HIV, 55% were Black African heterosexual men and 62% of heterosexual women.
A third risk category is drug users or People Who Inject Drugs (PWID). This is the lowest risk category with stats from 2014 indicating just 150 cases total of new diagnosis due to sharing needles. While it is a low-risk category, it’s still going to be a risk factor that will be used when assessing your level of risk for life cover. This will include reformed drug users who have used drugs in the past. Insurers will usually ask if there’s any history of substance abuse and if there is, it’s imperative they are made aware due it being a risk and could void your claim if it’s not declared.
Insurers can use a range of screening tests to ensure they can assess the risk level to them adequately and quote appropriately. One of the ways they do this for HIV is to have you take an HIV test. This will be done by your family doctor, the results treated in the strictest confidence and the insurer covers the cost.
You will be asked to grant the insurance firm access to your medical records, which will also involve sharing the results of an HIV test with them.
There’s no obligation for an insurance company to notify you of a negative test. If you test positive though, your doctor will work with you to discuss treatment options, for which there are quite a few options available.
Your insurance application may be put on hold for six to twelve months. The aim of this is to establish how you respond to treatment. This won’t always happen as an insurer could give a quote based on a pre-existing medical condition. However, some may want to wait to assess how you respond to the treatment to get a better indicator of your risk level.
HIV is considered and treated the same as any other medical condition by insurance companies. Not disclosing it when you know you have it or are at risk of it can invalidate your policy.
If you already have life insurance and are newly diagnosed, there’s no need to disclose the diagnosis to your insurance company, as long as you had no reason to suspect it could be an issue and didn’t declare it during your application.
If in doubt, ask your insurer because they cannot raise your premiums based on new medical conditions that come to light after you’ve taken out a policy.
The only exception to this is if you have a term life insurance policy as some types of these policies will be periodically reviewed. At the review stage of term policies, you do need to disclose new conditions for your cover to continue and the premiums are likely to increase when there is new information about your medical condition. Whole Life Cover policies will continue to provide the same level of protection with no additional premiums.
The key message from the ABI is that you should not cancel a policy because you’ve been newly diagnosed with HIV. In many cases, the policies remain valid.
Always seek professional advice before cancelling because it’s harder to get life insurance with a medical condition. New policies can be taken out even when you have HIV but it will have higher premiums due to the higher level of risk associated with the new policy.