Business Day, 30 October 2002, Facing challenge of HIV/AIDS

THE big challenge facing SA is to deal appropriately with an estimated 4-million to 5-million people who have HIV/AIDS.

Peter de Beyer, deputy MD of Old Mutual, says SA must make sure that people who do not have HIV/AIDS stay healthy, so the level of awareness must be raised.

He says one of the changes that has taken place over the past few years is that if people who are HIV positive access the right medical management they have every likelihood of living for 10 to 15 years. Therefore, there is a need to encourage people to get to know their status so that they can seek the appropriate treatment.

"The industry has been studying and modelling the progression of the disease since the mid-'80s and we have been following the course that was predicted if there was little change in people's behaviour. Due to this reasonably predictable scenario, a lot of the steps we have taken as insurers, such as putting the appropriate pricing in place along with the underwriting protocols, have resulted in a stable industry," De Beyer says.

Mike Jackson, executive director in charge of the Liberty Group's insurance operations, says the industry has accepted that there is a need for people who are HIV positive to obtain insurance, particularly if they wish to take out a mortgage bond in order to buy a home.

"The biggest problem facing someone who is HIV positive is that they cannot take out a mortgage bond as they are unable to obtain life insurance.

"Therefore, the industry is putting forward a proposal under which it is recommending compulsory mortgage protection insurance for all bonds below a certain level, such as R100000," he says.