Updated 25 June 2014

New hope for HIV positive individuals

You are devastated, at the depths of despondency. Surely this must also mean the death sentence? And what about the stigma associated with having a perceived terminal illness?



The news hits you like a ton of bricks: you are HIV positive.

You are devastated, at the depths of despondency. Surely this must also mean the death sentence? And what about the stigma associated with having a perceived terminal illness?

“To the contrary, like several other chronic diseases, HIV is a manageable disease, so HIV positive people can live a long and fulfilled life, provided they prudently look after their health – and we’re all the way there to help them,” says Dr Avron Urison, medical director of AllLife, leading and pioneering provider of life insurance.

Affordable life & disability cover

AllLife is the first company in the world to offer HIV positive people affordable life and disability cover. The company caught attention internationally with its unique offering to people with very limited access to financial products and hence tend to be excluded from the opportunity to participate in the mainstream economy.

“Through our life cover policies, AllLife helps people living with HIV gain access to home loans and other financial products which they have previously been denied. This, in turn, gives them hope, a reason to invest in their future and the ability to make a contribution to the economy,” AllLife co-founder and MD, Ross Beerman, explains.

What also sets the company apart is the free counselling service to HIV positive people during their insurance application process at other life insurance companies.

“Several life insurance companies that decline hundreds of people each month as a result of a positive HIV test, refer these declined clients to AllLife for telephonic post-test counselling. Historically, declined clients were referred back to their doctors for counselling, which resulted in less than 10% of people actually being informed of their test results and receiving counselling.

Since AllLife pioneered telephonic post-test counselling, in excess of 75% of these declined clients now receive their results and are counselled on how to manage HIV. As of March 2012, AllLife has already provided telephonic post-test counselling to thousands of people,” says Beerman.

Adherence monitoring

“AllLife’s adherence monitoring helps clients understand what treatment is required, become aware of different ways to access and buy into treatment, and correctly follow the required health monitoring and treatment programme, thus ensuring a healthy life,” says Beerman.

As antiretroviral therapy (ART) is available for free from government or through one’s medical aid, AllLife requires its clients to undergo regular medical check-ups, get the necessary periodic tests and follow treatment protocols. The company has agreements with most medical providers and can pull all relevant data pertaining to its clients.

AllLife’s advanced technological systems are able to check clients’ medical progress and send patients reminders to get blood tests or visit the doctor. Clients are phoned regularly to assist with health management and consultants are always available telephonically.

As a result of the care the company takes in assisting, monitoring and supporting its clients, adherence levels are a remarkably high 98%, drastically exceeding the success rate of most of the managed healthcare industry.

Moreover, clients also show an improvement in CD4+ count (a measure of the strength of the immune system) of around 15% within six months of joining the company.

“Our life insurance offering sends a powerful message to people living with HIV that they should plan to live long lives. This inspires clients to think about their future, begin managing their health and start planning for their long-term financial needs. The company’s health management function dramatically improves the health of its clients, in turn reducing their mortality risks. This enables AllLife to provide affordable life and disability cover,” Beerman adds.

The importance of proper nutrition in managing HIV

In addition to following ART, Urison also stresses the importance of appropriate nutrition and healthy eating for people living with HIV. “If you’re HIV positive, your body will undergo changes, both from medication and the disease itself. For example, you may experience extreme weight loss, infections, or diarrhoea.

Another common change is lipodystrophy (fat distribution syndrome) which can cause body shape changes and increases in cholesterol levels. Making improvements in your diet can improve your health and how well you feel.”

“It is equally important to increase the consumption of foods rich in vitamins and minerals as these protect against infection. Good vitamin-rich foods include all types of fruit and vegetables, especially green leafy vegetables and all types of red, orange and yellow fruits and vegetables. Whole grains, dried beans, fish are also rich in the B vitamins and minerals that are important for maintaining a good immune system,” Urison advises.

Client satisfaction

The positive effect of AllLife’s insurance and the supportive role of the staff to each and every client is clearly evident in the great number of positive letters regularly received from satisfied clients.

“I am very grateful to AllLife for ensuring that I can provide financially for my beneficiaries when I won’t be there. Hazel in the Adherence Department is one in a million. She is always positive and motivates me when I’m down. Whenever I speak to her, I find comfort. She makes me feel optimistic about the future.”

And another: “Without AllLife’s backing, my mortgage application would have been thrown out and home ownership would not be part of my reality. I will always be grateful to AllLife, they opened up the future for me and my family.”

With World AIDS Day on 1 December drawing closer, the message is clear: AllLife not only provides comprehensive and affordable life insurance to its clients, the company also gives them hope; reminding them that by managing their health appropriately the end is a long way away.

(Advertorial for AllLife Pty Ltd, November 2012) 


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Dr Sindisiwe van Zyl qualified at the University of Pretoria in 2005. She is a patients' rights activist and loves using social media to teach about HIV. She is in private practice in Johannesburg.

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