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Former election candidate ‘too scared’ to buy insurance because of HIV status

Former election candidate ‘too scared’ to buy insurance because of HIV status

Adrian Hyyrylainen-Trett

Adrian Hyyrylainen-Trett, who last year became the first UK general election candidate to come out as HIV+, today revealed he has never attempted to buy any form of insurance since being diagnosed with the condition in 2004.

Blaming a culture of intolerance, Hyyrylainen-Trett said he felt unwelcome as a consumer, ultimately leaving himself exposed to risk when traveling abroad.

‘CD4 counts and the concept of being undetectable is something my own community has only just got its head around. The insurance industry categorically is not going to understand that my life expectancy is unaltered just because I’m HIV+.

‘If life expectancy is the same, why is it so many people like me are not getting a fair deal with insurance?’

Hyyrylainen-Trett’s comments came after LGBT insurer Emerald Life recently launched a travel insurance product that doesn’t automatically increase policy premiums for those who are HIV +.

The coverage, which also boasts a number of other LGBT specific features, evaluates pre-existing medical conditions, without charging unfair additional premiums to those who are HIV+, as long as they are undetectable and on a stable course of medication.

Emerald commissioned YouGov research which found a significant number of people in the LGBT community specifically distrust insurance providers and others don’t think the industry has historically priced HIV+ fairly.

Accompanying this, Emerald Life undertook a mystery shopper exercise and found a number of well-known insurance providers do place additional costs on to those who are HIV+ without attempting to assess any specifics, adding to the industry-wide stigma to those living with the condition.

With trends like this, Hyyrylainen-Trett feels his fear of applying for insurance is well-warranted, ‘Why would I ever want to buy insurance again? Insurance providers and the wider financial services industry are sending a very clear message to people like me,’ he said.

‘Medication has improved dramatically over the last 20 years and organizations such as insurance brokers just haven’t kept up’

In June, Paul Fleming, the former fundraising and communications director of London HIV charity Positive East, spoke about an unfair experience he received whilst attempting to buy travel insurance ahead of a fundraising trip to Kilimanjaro.

When applying for the policy, with a well-known provider, Fleming explained that he had a pre-existing medical condition – HIV – and was asked about his CD4 count, as well as his current viral load.

Having been on medication for some time, he confirmed he had a high CD4 count and that his viral load was currently measured as undetectable. This should not have flagged up any additional insurance risk factors to the provider, yet when Fleming applied again without revealing his condition he found he had been hit with an additional fee on the insurance premium. This angered him.

‘There’s a lack of understanding about the realities of living with HIV today.

‘If you are diagnosed and taking medication effectively, medication has improved dramatically over the last 20 years and organizations such as insurance brokers just haven’t kept up. They are unnecessarily increasing premiums,’ he told Boyz magazine in June.

Emerald Life’s CEO, Heidi McCormack was critical of some of the insurance industry’s practices towards those who are HIV+, saying, ‘There are significant parts of the insurance industry that seem biased against people who are HIV+.

‘The medical advances of the last two decades have outgrown and outpaced the industry’s understanding of health versus risk. To help fix this, we are working with progressive underwriters who genuinely understand the importance of pricing risk fairly for people living with HIV.’

As well as fairer HIV pricing, the Emerald travel policy also includes a 24/7 helpline if you are detained or assaulted anywhere in the world, which is a UK first, and a fully online and confidential medical screening service for any condition, not just HIV.

Emerald Life hopes that its ground-breaking initiatives will help the insurance sector change its behavior towards its LGBT customers. The company has already been listed for several industry awards, including the new Insurance Insider category of ‘Inclusion and Diversity Award’, sponsored by LINK, the LGBT insurance network.