People with HIV 'living 15 years longer'

New figures pose big questions for protection providers

The way in which protection providers approach the issue of HIV is back in the spotlight, after figures published this week showed a significant increase in life expectancy for people living with the condition.

The study, published on bmj.com, suggests that people with HIV are living an average of 15 years longer than they were 13 years ago, thanks to improved treatments.

Researchers for the study, which was led by Dr Margaret May of the University of Bristol's School of Social and Community Medicine, looked at data on 17,661 patients, 1,248 (7%) of whom died between 1996 and 2008. The analysis showed that the life expectancy of an average 20-year old infected with HIV has increased from 30 years in 1996-9 to almost 46 years in 2006-8. For women, life expectancy is 10 years higher than for men, with male patients' life expectancy at 40 years and female patients' life expectancy at 50 years.

The rise can be attributed to better antiretroviral therapy, more effective drugs and an upward trend in life expectancy in the UK population in general, researchers said.

It is not yet known what the response of protection providers will be to the positive news on survival rates, but insurers have been taking a more progressive attitude to HIV since the Association of British Insurers published its Statement of Best Practice for HIV and insurance in July 2008. In 2009 PruProtect claimed to be the first “mainstream” UK insurer to extend an existing life cover product to include people living with HIV, in the UK. At launch the product provided up to £250,000 life cover over a maximum period of ten years.

Critical illness insurance providers have also made efforts to make the products more appropriate to the needs of the HIV community.

Deepak Jobanputra, actuarial and product director of PruProtect, said the provider has been providing cover for people with HIV for some time as it recognises that people with HIV lead normal lives and have protection needs to provide peace of mind to cover their dependants and to cover their mortgages. He added that PruProtect's "severity-based" approach to protection is an ideal way of helping people to find the cover they need.

"Prognosis for illnesses change over time and hence the most appropriate solution in meeting people’s needs is through severity-based products," he said.

Chris Morgan, marketing manager of Unusual Risks, the HIV life assurance specialist advisers, said that people living with HIV are on average living longer and this is due to "vast improvements" in medications.

"This therefore has also led to big improvements in the availability of life assurance products to the HIV community," he said.

However, a survey carried out by Compass in December 2010 found that just 33% of "mainstream" life offices have entered the life cover market for people with HIV. Morgan said that Compass has repeated the research this year and the results will be published soon.

Look out for a forthcoming analysis of protection insurance and HIV on www.hi-mag.com and in Health Insurance magazine.

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