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 Thursday 09 August 2007
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TANZANIA: Insurance for HIV-positive employees inspires confidence

Photo: M. Sayagues/PlusNews
ARVs are becoming increasingly available across Tanzania
DAR ES SALAAM, 8 November 2006 (PlusNews) - The availability of affordable antiretroviral (ARV) drugs in Tanzania is restoring employers' confidence in the productivity of their HIV-positive staff and gaining the employees more credibility at work.

Health sector workers said in the past employers had summarily laid off staff diagnosed with HIV to limit overheads, but access to ARVs had restored some measure of confidence in the health of their HIV-positive staff.

"Companies have even realised that it is less costly to maintain a highly skilled and experienced worker on ARVs than having to hire and train new staff to replace workers diagnosed with the virus," said Dr Catherine Joachim, a physician at the African Air Rescue (AAR) Hospital in the commercial capital, Dar es Salaam.

AAR, an international health provider and health insurance fund manager, has experienced a surge in its health fund portfolio in recent months. Access to ARVs was still low across the country, but Joachim said a downward trend in the cost was encouraging employers to take out comprehensive health cover for staff, including HIV/AIDS cover.

"We are managing HIV insurance fund schemes for more than 10 insurance firms and many more employers," Joachim said. "They are no longer afraid to provide life insurance for their employees because delayed onset of full-blown AIDS means the workers remain productive for a long time in spite of their HIV-status."

In response to relaxation of firms' tight positions on HIV/AIDS as a drain on profits, some insurance firms are rolling out products specifically for salaried HIV patients, with an advertising blitz heralding a turning point in the perception of the pandemic among insurers.

Joe Bishota, a manager at African Life Insurance in Dar es Salaam, said recent advances in medicine had helped allay past fears over the terminal nature of HIV/AIDS, and the availability of affordable treatment locally had persuaded the firm to launch "Tumaini" - Kiswahili for hope - insurance cover for HIV-positive clients.

He said ARVs and insurance cover were complementary in HIV/AIDS management. "The motivation behind the health cover is to ensure that these individuals support their families, as they would be productive, live a better life and contribute positively to community development."

Deep price cuts and free distribution in some government hospitals meant easier access to ARVs, so people stayed productive for longer periods and could generate income to pay their premiums and get health services in return.

Most firms had previously been unable to assess the impact of the pandemic because AIDS-related stigma, coupled with the fear of being sacked, had often forced employees to lie about their HIV status. However, the new insurance was providing a clearer picture of the situation.

"Insurance cover provides statistical feedback to the employer while maintaining confidentiality," Bishota said. "This way, employers are better able to get an assessment of the penetration of HIV/AIDS within the organisation and plan accordingly to meet its human resource capacity requirements."


Theme(s): (IRIN) Care/Treatment - PlusNews


[This report does not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations]
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