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Fewer Aids related deaths could mean better benefits

By Staff Writer
Nicolette Dirk, finance writer, Justmoney.co.za
 
Latest statistics from South African insurers revealed that people diagnosed with HIV/Aids are returning to work after shorter periods of time while Aids related deaths are declining.  
Neil Parkin, group assurance actuary at Old Mutual Corporate, said that in 2001 only 1% of Old Mutual’s group disability claims were due to Aids. Ten years later, Aids claims accounted for more than 10% of total disabilities.
The findings come as South Africa notes World Aids Day, which occurs annually on 1 December 2013.
 
But Parkin said that while the number of claims linked to Aids has increased, the disease remains a relatively short-term cause of disability. 
 
“Compared to the average disability income claimant who is paid for six years, and longer term conditions (such as psychiatric diseases) which are paid for over 10 years, the duration of an average Aids claim is just 1½ years.

South Africans are claiming for Aids-related disabilities for short terms. This is not due to the high death rate among Aids claimants, but rather because better treatment is allowing people to return to work much sooner than in the past,” said Parkin.
 
What is causing the positive trend in claims?
 
According to Parkin, in 2012 the majority of claims that ended saw the claimant recover sufficiently to return to work. This has been driven by a number of factors, including both the progression of HIV in the working population and the way claims are reported.
 
According to Dalene Allen, underwriting director of Altrisk, millions of HIV positive people are living longer lives than scientists ever imagined possible in the past.
 
“Experience has shown us that HIV is a chronic illness much like diabetes, and not a life threatening disease. The reality is that in 13 years, we have only ever had two HIV life claims – a trend that echoes the research coming out of the reinsurers,” said Allen.  
 
Parkin said that although stigma continues to surround Aids, this is reducing, especially in the insurance and employment context. In the group assurance market, Aids is treated like any other condition with no specific exclusions.
 
“A greater comfort with this principle may have led to increased reporting. We are thus classifying more claims correctly, and employees are likely to be submitting claims earlier than in the past,” said Parkin. 
Parkin said they have seen a reduction in deaths related to Aids. 
 
 
The changing face of Aids
 
Aids is changing from a certain death sentence, to a chronic and manageable disease. 
 
“There is much speculation about the future of Aids, but the hope is that the savings from fewer Aids deaths will filter through into enhanced disability benefits for all members,” said Parkin.

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