HIV stigma - an insidious barrier to getting life insurance

2016-05-04
We understand that HIV stigma and discrimination can be a barrier to establishing a life insurance policy, so we decided to be the change we wanted to see. We understand that HIV stigma and discrimination can be a barrier to establishing a life insurance policy, so we decided to be the change we wanted to see.

Stigma and discrimination undermine more than just HIV prevention and treatments

Australia's known the world over as the lucky country and our unrestricted access to financial services such as life insurance is something that most Australians simply take for granted.

Setting the story straight

For Australia’s HIV positive community and their partners, stigma and discrimination provide a roadblock to many seeking to protect and provide for those they love through a simple life insurance policy.

A barrier to health and HIV prevention

Stigma and discrimination are among the foremost barriers to HIV prevention, treatment, care and support.

We know that research has shown that stigma:

  • undermines HIV prevention efforts by making people afraid to seek information and services in case these actions raise suspicion about their HIV status
  • fear of stigma and discrimination undermines people's ability and willingness to access and follow treatments
  • stigma and discrimination weaken the ability of individuals and communities to protect themselves from HIV and to stay safe.”
  • Source - UNAIDS.org 14 November 2014

Can stigma and discrimination stop you buying life insurance?

In the same way, stigma and discrimination present a strong barrier for people living with HIV who want to establish life insurance to protect themselves from the risks of everyday living.

This means the risks of there everyday life cannot be transferred to a life insurance company.

  • mortgages
  • business debts
  • protecting families
  • children’s education
  • supporting ageing parents
The weight of these financial risks are left on the shoulders of an individual to carry. This same individual is then denied the ability to put in place a financial safety net or legacy

5 Barriers people living with HIV face with life insurance

Barrier 1

The absolute Duty of Disclosure Laws

An application for life insurance requires an individual in Australia to disclose sensitive personal, medical, mental health and lifestyle information.

Under the legal Duty of Disclosure Laws, not to provide those full disclosures during an application, particularly in regard to your prior medical history and relationship status, allows an insurance company not to pay a claim on the grounds of non-disclosure.

Barrier 2

When personal information is not safe

When you’re living with HIV you don’t take risks with your personal information and your priority is to protect your loved ones from any discrimination.

We understand the impact of personal information getting into careless or even wrong hands. We are unashamedly fanatical about our clients' privacy.

We know cases where people private information has been lost, where employees have publicly discussed sensitive health data of profile people and how past employees from big institutions been careless with sensitive data.

When you have over 18 years’ experience in financial services, you get to know who to trust with clients information and who you can’t.

Barrier 3

Not understanding the context of HIV discrimination

Not everyone is a vocal part of a supportive and engaged community and not everyone has equal access to resources, support and understanding.

We understand that for the people who don’t appreciate the context of HIV, hearing concerns about privacy breaches may appear insignificant.

That’s why we exist to stand up as advocates for our clients so that they don’t have to repeatedly explain themselves to the uninformed.

Barrier 4

Regional and remote challenges

We work with many people from regional Australia. One of their reoccurring fears is the lack of confidentiality with many regional health and financial services professionals who don’t work well with diversity.

They have very real concerns about the risks of social and commercial isolation (and even retribution) that occurs when confidential medical information is disclosed or mismanaged.

Barrier 5

Preying upon people's lack of access to usable information

Some insurance companies have found ways to provide what we call term limited life insurance policies that effectively work like a car insurance policy. The policy might last for about 10 years then have to be reapplied for after the set term. Problem is, there's absolutely no guarantees that you’ll be eligible for reinsurance.

This short term fix leads people to live smaller lives because they have no certainty of a future past 10 years. When you don’t have access to the whole insurance market, perhaps you’ve run into a dodgy comparison website, you run the risk of thinking that this is as good as it gets.

With updated medical data now available, these companies should try harder to provide protection to individuals and not commercial tokenism

We believe the best option for an HIV positive consumer is to be aligned with our speciality financial services practice.

We understand the barriers and your concerns and we are the solution to many of those problems.

How is unusualrisks.com.au different?

We are the only speciality life insurance service in Australia dedicated to serving the HIV positive community.

We’ve worked closely with insurance providers and their international re-insurers to be able to identify those people who are able to qualify for full life insurance, regardless of their status.

The chronically underserved portion of the Australian community

Australia has an estimated 26,800 people living with HIV. See Kirby Institute Surveillance Report.

We estimate less than 300 Australians living with HIV have high-quality* life insurance in place. A high-quality policy is one where the HIV condition is disclosed to the insurer, formally accepted as part of the life insurance policy without any restriction, exclusion, not reduced to a limited term cover that needs to be reapplied for regularly, like car insurance.

We see that those same stigma and discrimination barriers are the same barriers that are inextricably linked to applying for life insurance. This is why we made our dedicated online anonymous service to help people diagnosed with HIV get their life insurance sorted.

  • For us, it’s a human rights issue
  • For our client's it about simply being able to protect and provide for those they love

We invite you to make us part of your story today.

If this article was of interest you might like to browse The UNAIDS Goals here and take their UNSW Stigma Survey here.

Drew Browne

Drew specialises in helping people protect and provide for what matters most in their lives. He's an award-winning writer, speaker, financial adviser and business strategy mentor. His company Sapience Financial and Investment Services is committed to using business solutions for good in the community, is a member of the international B1G1 Business for Good Giving Community and in 2015 certified as a B Corp. In 2017 Drew was recognised in the inaugural Australian Westpac Businesses of Tomorrow national awards. Drew writes for successful Small Business Owners and Entrepreneurs at Smallville, his blogs can be read on Amazon.com and you can connect with him on LinkedIn.