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A new approach on HIV

ABI statement of best practice Aegon head of underwriting & claims Matt Rann outlines imminent changes to applications

The life insurance industry is changing its rules on what personal inform- ation it can and cannot request from applicants. From September 30, product providers will not be allowed to ask questions which could be perceived as being discriminatory towards homosexual and bisexual men.

As a result, and in line with the ABI’s statement of best practice on HIV and insurance, questions relating to HIV and Aids will be changed.

Many people felt that a review was long overdue into the way the industry tackled the risks associated with HIV infection. The specific issue that the industry has now addressed is that sexual orientation is not the key risk factor. It has recognised and accepted that the key issue is sexual behaviour.

The following questions, requiring people to disclose their sexual orientation, will be removed from life insur- ance, income protection and critical-illness policies:

  • “Have you ever tested positive for HIV/Aids or hepatitis B or C, or have you been tested or treated for other sexually-transmitted infections or are you awaiting the results of such a test?”
  • “Do you belong, or have you ever belonged, to any of the groups listed below, which have been establis- hed as Aids high risk by the health authorities: homosexual men, bisexual men, haemophiliacs, intravenous (IV) drug users, sexual partners of anyone in the preceding groups or sexual partners of anyone who is or was HIV-positive?”
  • Four new questions have been agreed between the ABI’s HIV working party, the Terrence Higgins Trust and Pinkfinance.com.

  • “Have you ever tested positive for HIV, hepatitis B or C, or are you awaiting the results of such a test? Note: if the result is negative, the fact of having an HIV test will not, of itself, have any effect on your acceptance terms for insurance.”
  • “Within the last five years, have you been exposed to the risk of HIV infection? This can be caught through unsafe sex, intravenous drug abuse or blood transfusions or surgery undertaken outside the European Union.”
  • “Within the last five years, have you tested positive or been treated for any disease which was transmitted sexually?”

  • “Have you ever injected non-prescription drugs?”
  • Moving to these new questions is a step in the right direction. However, the question relating to unsafe sex still leaves some room for confusion and misinterpretation. Who determines what is unsafe sex? The applicant, the insurer or the reinsurer? It would be good if the industry could come up with a universally agreed definition of unsafe sex so that all product providers have the same information and there is no room for interpretation or doubt.

    One small downside to all this is that we are replacing two questions with four. At a time when there are increasing calls for simpler application forms, these new questions may cause a few raised eyebrows. It is unfortunate that application forms are so long but all the questions asked are relevant to the risk the insurer is being asked to take on. In addition, longer proposal forms are designed to maximise the information that can be obtained at point of sale and increase the speed at which a case can be moved to acceptance. This benefits the insurer, adviser and client.

    Advisers should be aware that insurers are now prohibited from informing them that an HIV test has been requested, even if this is for routine sum assured purposes. The insurer is obliged to contact the client direct to inform him or her that a test is required and to obtain the necessary consent it to take place.

    The key principles of the ABI statement of best practice on HIV and insurance are worthy of note (right) and should shape the core underwriting philosophy of providers. The code of practice is to be welcomed and the ABI, Terrence Higgins Trust and Pinkfinance.com should be congratulated on achieving a way forward on what can be a very sensitive subject.

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