Thursday 13 June

Following years of engagement with the insurance industry on the issue of the blanket refusals to provide insurance cover to individuals living with HIV, SECTION27 is encouraged that a permanent favourable solution could be found soon. This follows the recent groundbreaking commitment made by the Association for Savings & Investment South Africa (ASISA).

ASISA is the major stakeholder in the insurance industry. After its formation in 2008 it also took over the responsibilities of the Life Offices’ Association (LOA) following its disbandment.

For over a decade we have consistently voiced our concerns against the widespread practice of refusing insurance cover to individuals living with HIV. The AIDS Law Project, and now SECTION27, engaged with both the LOA and its successor, ASISA, in a bid to stop such discriminatory practices. Even though some limited gains were made following such interventions, we have continued to receive many complaints from members of the public who are denied insurance cover solely on the basis of their HIV status, without any individualised assessments of the risks.

As a result, at the beginning of 2013 SECTION27 resolved to prioritise this issue with a view to litigate if necessary. Our extensive investigation has revealed that almost every insurer is complicit in discriminatory conduct. We currently represent several individuals who are seeking to take legal action against four major insurers; three of them ASISA members.

In its latest response to the concerns raised by SECTION27 regarding ASISA’s members unfairly discriminating against people living with HIV, the organisation stated that it is in the process of reviewing its HIV protocol in order to eliminate all offensive provisions.

SECTION27 deems the current protocol unconstitutional, insofar as it provides that insurance cover for HIV positive applicants should be automatically denied solely on the basis of HIV status. In their response, ASISA concedes that HIV should indeed be regarded as a treatable and insurable condition. It has agreed with SECTION27 that there is no justification for blanket refusal of insurance cover based on HIV status. According to ASISA, a revised protocol is likely to be released by mid-August 2013.

This development forms an important step on the part of the insurance industry towards acknowledging that HIV is a manageable, and therefore insurable, chronic condition. It holds great potential to significantly decrease, if not eliminate, the current high levels of prejudicial treatment against HIV positive applicants.

We welcome this commitment. Nonetheless we will continue to monitor the industry. In particular, our engagement with the relevant individual insurers will be intensified as ASISA has indicated that it has no control over its members. It merely serves as an advisory body. This therefore means that the battle can only be won if individual insurers amend their policies to make them consistent with the Constitution and other laws that seek to prevent unfair discrimination. If these attempts are unsuccessful, legal action is contemplated.

A copy of the letter from ASISA can be read here ASISA letter Insurance discrimation May 2013

For more information please contact S’khumbuzo Maphumulo at 011 356 4100 or