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International News
Organizations, Health Insurance Company Launch Insurance Program for HIV-Positive People in India

August 15, 2008

Nongovernmental organizations and a health insurance company on Wednesday launched an insurance program for people living with HIV in the Indian state of Karnataka, The Hindu reports. The program -- the first of its kind in India -- was launched by Population Services International, the Karnataka Network for Positive People and the insurance company Star Health and Allied Insurance (The Hindu, 8/14). The program also is supported by USAID.

More than 250 HIV-positive people will be included in the project's initial stages, according to the Hindustan Times (Sharma, Hindustan Times, 8/13). The group health plan will provide coverage worth 30,000 rupees -- or about $700 -- for HIV-positive people, including 15,000 rupees -- or about $350 -- for hospitalization at the onset of AIDS and $350 for treatment. The premium of 1,500 rupees -- or about $30 -- will be subsidized by up to 50% by the groups involved in the program, according to the Indian Express.

The program was introduced in the districts of Bangalore, Bellary, Kolar, Mangalore, Mysore and Udupi. Hospitals have been told about the program and instructed not to turn away people living with HIV, according to C.P. Udayachandran, assistant vice president at Star Health and Allied. Although India's National AIDS Control Organisation is not directly involved in the program, NACO has started speaking with insurance companies at the national level to develop a nationwide plan for people living with HIV and their families, the Express reports. NACO Director Sujatha Rao said, "We are trying to work on an insurance policy that will provide a package of services. We want to include even healthy people and families of those with HIV." According to Rao, a "scheme for only [HIV-positive people] would mean higher premiums" (Indian Express, 8/14).

The program is a "milestone in the fight against the discrimination of people living with HIV," Asha Ramaiah, general secretary of the Karnataka network, said, adding, "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." Rao added that the program is a "first step to breaking down financial barriers of HIV-positive people in accessing treatment" (Hindustan Times, 8/13).

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