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International News
Irish Government Launches Program to Provide Life Insurance to People With HIV, Hepatitis C Through Contaminated Blood Products

October 1, 2007

The Irish government on Thursday launched a program to provide life insurance, mortgage protection and travel insurance to people who contracted HIV or hepatitis C through contaminated blood products, Ireland's Evening Echo reports (Evening Echo, 9/27).

In the mid-1980s, about half of Ireland's 500 hemophiliacs contracted HIV or hepatitis C from the nation's blood supply. In April 2002, then Irish Health Minister Michael Martin and the Irish Hemophilia Society announced a $90 million deal to compensate hemophiliacs who were infected with HIV from state-provided contaminated blood products (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 4/15/02). According to the Evening Echo, about 3,300 people in Ireland have initiated claims against the government related to infections from contaminated blood products.

People who enroll in the new insurance plan -- which is expected to cost about 1.1 billion pounds, or about $2.2 billion -- will pay the average premium for an HIV-negative person of the same age and gender, and the government will cover additional costs. Applications for mortgage protection and life insurance will be subject to restrictions after 12 months, the Evening Echo reports (Evening Echo, 9/27).

Eleanor O'Mahony -- chair of Positive Action, a group that represents women who acquired HIV or hepatitis C though blood transfusions -- said that the insurer Eagle Star is offering the policies and encouraged other insurers to offer policies so that "competition could be stimulated" (O'Sullivan, Irish Examiner, 9/28). The program, which was first announced last year, is the first of its kind worldwide, the Evening Echo reports (Evening Echo, 9/27).

Positive Action said the program is "long-awaited" and added that the group's members have been unable to purchase homes because of their medical conditions. Health Minister Mary Harney said the program is an "important measure to provide further support" to people who acquired HIV or other infectious diseases through contaminated blood products. Harney added that the "inability of these people to buy life [insurance] or mortgage protection policies added further problems to the damage they had already suffered."

John Dwyer, who will administer the program, said it will have a "very positive impact on the lives of those" living with HIV or hepatitis C. "This in effect means that they and their families will now have greater security and peace of mind into the future," Dwyer added (Irish Examiner, 9/28).

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