Don’t disadvantage the poor and middle class.
That was the Opposition’s appeal to Government yesterday on the eve of today’s 2017 budget delivery.
A new insurance bill is being drafted to treat with discrimination by insurance companies against HIV positive citizens. This was revealed by Minister of State in the Office of the Prime Minister Rodger Samuel. Samuel made the revelation yesterday during a breakfast seminar on HIV in the Workplace hosted by the Human Resource Association of T&T (HRMATT) at the Crowne Plaza, Port-of-Spain. While responding during a question and answer session at the seminar, Samuel said the new insurance bill would deal with insuring people infected with HIV as well as ensuring that insurance companies paid out on policies to persons who contract the virus. A call to three leading health insurance providers revealed that neither health nor life insurance coverage would be given to HIV positive persons.
In his address, Samuel disclosed to participants that the economic impact of HIV/AIDS as of 2009 was estimated at $41.25 million, with the cost of treating one person with HIV per year at approximately $14,000. He said calculations based on figures presented by the International Labour Organisation (ILO) suggested that 19,472 people with HIV get up and go to work in T&T on a daily basis. Samuel described the major economic impact of the virus on the country, with Government paying nearly $20 million annually for anti retroviral treatment. Samuel said the ILO had identified AIDS as a workplace issue as it impacted on workers, their families and dependants, enterprises and national economies. He said T&T had a national workplace policy on HIV/AIDS but there was an issue of implementation and enforcement of the guidelines.
The minister said aside from the national workplace policy, Government had also developed a workplace policy on HIV to address the peculiarities of the health sector. Samuel said a workplace policy was necessary for every company but this alone could not combat the stigma and discrimination of the virus. Samuel said from lecturing in schools he had deduced that the average Form One student already had three or four sexual partners. Executive director of the Family Planning Association of T&T Donna Da Costa Martinez said employers had a responsibility to establish workplace policies on HIV/AIDS. She said discrimination at the workplace could result in a reduction of family finances making the HIV positive individual feel like more of a burden to family.