India’s 2.5-million-strong HIV population will finally have an insurance policy to fall back on, once they develop full blown AIDS.

A Chennai-based private insurance firm, Star Health and Allied Insurance Company, is set to launch India’s first-ever health cover for HIV-positive people, early next week.

Under the scheme, an HIV-positive patient with a CD-4 count not less than 500 cells per cubic millimetre of blood, will have to pay an annual premium of Rs 3,000.

Once he or she becomes a full blown AIDS patient, the company will pay a one time compensation of Rs 50,000 back to them. The company has also tied up with 1,800 hospitals and labs where it will conduct the CD-4 test of HIV patients seeking insurance cover.

The CD-4 count test is used to gauge immunity levels of an HIV-infected patient and to assess whether damage caused by the virus requires life-saving anti-retroviral therapy (ART).

The CD-4 count is used in combination with the viral load test which measures level of HIV in blood. The test is ordered when a person is first diagnosed with HIV as part of a baseline measurement. Tests are repeated every six months. The CD-4 count in healthy adults ranges from 500 to 1,500 cells per cubic millimetre of blood.

In HIV infected people, it goes down by 60 cells per cubic millimetre of blood per year as HIV progresses. ART is administered when an HIV-positive person registers a CD-4 count under 200. Speaking to TOI, chief of Star Health V Jagannathan said, “At present, we have fixed the premium at Rs 3,000. However, we plan to revise that and lower the price in the next renewal.”

He added, “This health insurance cover is awaiting Insurance Regulatory and Development Authority approvals. We hope to get them by this weekend. All that a patient has to do is come to us for the insurance cover. The blood tests will be conducted by us.” According to Naco, of the 2.5 million people with HIV in India, nearly 3 lakh at present suffer from full blown AIDS.

Reacting to this move, K K Abraham, chief of Indian Network of People Living with HIV, told TOI, “For someone with CD-4 count above 500 following proper treatment regimen and good nutrition, transmission from HIV to AIDS will take nearly 15-16 years. The company, therefore, has done good research. However, that such an insurance cover is being launched at all is a great sign for India’s HIV population. At present, no such cover exists. Hopefully, many other companies will come up with similar schemes for HIV-positive people.”

Currently, AIDS insurance is not offered in India and insurers have complained that lack of representative data has kept them from venturing into the segment. Globally, the government of Uganda was the first to offer AIDS insurance to 25,000 miners. Star Health had recently come out with a Diabetes safe insurance policy. It covered already known diabetics against risks arising out of specified complications. The policy cover ranged from Rs 50,000 to Rs 4 lakh. Source:timesofindia