Insurance companies discriminate against individuals with HIV/AIDS

This is a clarion call for insurance companies to end the discrimination against individuals with HIV/AIDS.

HIV continues to spread throughout the world, shadowed by increasing challenges to human rights, at both national and global levels.

People living with HIV/AIDS should have the same basic rights and responsibility of those which apply to all citizens of the country.

Does an insurance company have the right to discriminate against individuals with pre-existing conditions such as HIV/AIDS?

I have heard of cases where insurance companies refuse to pay benefits to families simply because the insured might not have said he/she is HIV positive and is on Zidovudine (ZDV), also known as azidothymidine (AZT), which is an antiretroviral medication used to prevent and treat HIV/AIDS.

Why are these individuals still discriminated against in this “Age of Enlightenment” as everyone is entitled to his/her rights as a human being?

What makes persons with pre-existing conditions such as HIV/AIDS different – aren’t they contributing to society?

Being on (ZVD) or AZT virally suppressed and prolonged lives of individuals living with HIV/AIDS and they can live long, healthy fulfilling lives so why deny them the opportunity of getting life insurance – “aren’t we all risks factors.”

Like every hard working individual, they too are playing their part and performing their roles and functions like every good citizen.

The United Nations and others have been fighting to end discrimination against persons with HIV/AIDS. They’re even calling for change in attitude towards people living with HIV/AIDS. So, why are the insurance companies not complying?

Persons living with HIV/AIDS are entitled to their rights of privacy and confidentiality. If he/she doesn’t feel comfortable disposing information about their pre-existing conditions it’s their rights to do so.

According to the 2015 drafted document entitled National Workplace Policy On HIV/AIDS, on the issue of confidentiality it clearly states and I quote, “the right of every person to have their health and personal information kept private.”

I don’t just want to see this happening in workplace only but it should be implemented and made into policy for all healthcare professionals and healthcare providers.

There are laws governing individuals who have contracted HIV/AIDS in many countries around the world. Not even doctors are supposed to dispose of these confidential information to anyone, not even family members, insurance companies or spouse without the consent of that individual and not even after death cannot be revealed not by any physician.

When it comes to men and women accessing treatment for HIV/AIDS there is equality and there are no violations of human rights.

The discriminative aspect is what hurts the most. These individuals are still discriminated against in work place that’s why it’s important that persons living with HIV/AIDS should be protected by law.

HIV/AIDS-related human rights issues are not only becoming more apparent, but also becoming increasingly diverse.

The whole issue of this level of discrimination started back in 1980s when people really didn’t understand the concept of HIV/AIDS.

There were many restrictions on international travel – barriers to employment and housing, access to education, medical care, and/or health insurance, and the many other issues.

Almost three decades into the epidemic and they haven’t been resolved.

The Ministry of Health and NGOs such as GrenCHAP and GrenAIDS have been trying their best to provide individuals with free counselling and they’ve also made recommendations to our policy makers.

They’ve also engaged in a number of outreach programmes. Kudos to the hard-working men and women who made a lot of things possible by giving them a safe space especially marginalised groups.

I believe the time has come for NGOs and other stakeholders to approach our policymakers in ensuring some measures are taken or policies put in place against those insurance companies that are discriminating against individuals with pre-existing conditions such as HIV/AIDS.

People with HIV infection and AIDS have the right to confidentiality and privacy about their health and HIV status.

Health care professionals are ethically and legally required to keep all information about clients or patients confidential.

So, why does insurance companies discriminate against such individuals who don’t see it fit to disclose such confidential information to their agents on completion of application forms?

No one should be held at ransom in disclosing their HIV/AIDS status to any insurance company.

Given the reality of violations that continues to occur, it is useful to consider the specific human rights responsibilities of governments.

Governments are responsible for not violating rights directly, as well as for ensuring the conditions that enables people to realise their rights as fully as possible.

It is understood that, for every human right, governments have responsibilities at three levels: they must respect the right, they must protect the right, and they must fulfill the right of every one with HIV/AIDS because they are the policymakers.

Therefore, government is charged with the responsibility of protecting the vulnerabilities of these individuals by ensuring insurance companies end the discrimination against people with pre-existing conditions such as HIV/AIDS.

Brian J.M. Joseph

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