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Sanchita Sharma, Hindustan Times
New Delhi, August 13, 2008
Getting infected with HIV that causes AIDS will no longer automatically exclude people from getting a health insurance cover. There are 2.5 million people living with HIV in India. Since they are not covered by any health insurance scheme, they have to pay from their pocket for the treatment of frequent opportunistic infections such as tuberculosis and pneumonia that their low immunity exposes them to.

In a first, over 250 people living with HIV got group health insurance under an innovative initiative introduced by the NGO Population Services International in partnership with Star Health and Allied Insurance Company and the Karnataka Network for Positive People (KNP+).

“This is a milestone in the fight against the discrimination of people living with HIV. This health insurance will allow us to get the best possible treatment and change the perception that we are a financial burden on our families. Along with the Kerala government reserving a job for a person living with HIV, things are indeed looking up for us,” said Asha Ramaiah, general secretary, KNP+.

There’s no doubt that the initiative will help people living with HIV get better access to treatment and care. “This is a first step to breaking down financial barriers of HIV+ people in accessing treatment,” said K. Sujatha Rao, Director General National AIDS Control Organisation (NACO).

The initiative is supported by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) under Project Connect.

This initiative is among the first in need-based community-led health insurance schemes in the country. “This plan is a pilot to identify the type of insurance schemes that would fit the needs of HIV patients. For example, to serve lower income PLHIV, we reduced the premium by 40 per cent and have included coverage of hospitalisation expenses, excluding tuberculosis and gastroenteritis, before the AIDS stage,” said V Jagannathan, managing director, Star Insurance.