Latest statistics from South African insurers reveal that the fight against HIV/Aids is gaining traction, with people affected by the disease returning to work after shorter periods of time and Aids related deaths declining significantly.
Neil Parkin, Group Assurance Actuary at Old Mutual Corporate, speaking at a briefing seminar in Johannesburg where he spoke to the topicTaming the HIV Pandemic: Medical breakthroughs and better financial solutions, says 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. However, Parkin says 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 one and a half years.
“South Africans are claiming for Aids-related disabilities for short terms. This is not due to the incorrect belief that there is high death rate amongst Aids claimants, but rather because better treatment is allowing people to return to work much sooner than in the past. “In 2012 the majority of claims that ended saw the claimant recover sufficiently to return to work. This is a major change in both the way Aids claims are managed from an insurance perspective, and the expectation around people’s ability to be reintegrated into the workplace.”
Parkin says that 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.
“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,” explains Parkin.
Parkin also notes that the company has seen a reduction in deaths, which is likely to be linked to Aids. “Since 2008, a high level analysis we conducted among major companies shows a 20% reduction in the mortality rate. Simply put – fewer people are dying.”
Old Mutual’s research included half a million risk cover clients over four years
He warns, however, that since Aids is not generally recorded as a cause of death, it is difficult to assess whether a reduction in Aids deaths is driving this.
“Comment has been made that Aids is changing from a certain death sentence to a chronic and manageable disease. The experience of our group risk schemes bears witness to this – we have seen a period of increasing deaths, and then the recent start of a reversal. 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,” concludes Parkin.