A group of NGOs displayed over 25,000 postcards with a message appealing to the health ministry to provide health insurance to HIV-positive patients.
Ahead of World AIDS Day Dec 1, ten NGOs are conducting a "positive letter campaign" with postcards carrying the message: "Kindly provide Health Insurance to People Living with HIV AIDS (PLHA)".
The message has been pinned up with the red ribbon that has come to symbolize HIV/AIDS. The public messages have been displayed along a km-long stretch of the road from Jantar Mantar to Barakhamba Road in central Delhi.
"We request honorable Health Minister Shri Ghulam Nabi Azad to intercede on behalf of thousands of Indians who are in desperate need of access to health insurance and life saving treatment," said Chhim Sarath of the AIDS Healthcare Foundation, Asia-Pacific.
According to AHF India, in February, the Insurance Regulatory and Development Authority (IRDA) had asked all life and general insurance companies to put in place a underwriting policy on health insurance for PLHAs (People Living with HIV/Aids).
"For the first time, IRDA issued guidelines covering this segment. The guidelines were supposed to be effective from October. But out of 24 insurance firms registered with IRDA, only one insurance company, Star Health and Allied Insurance Company, has a policy under group insurance cover for the HIV-positive. No other company has offered a scheme and many still maintain that HIV-positive patients are excluded from insurance coverage," a statement of AHF India said.
The policy should provide clear guidelines. Insurers should provide details of loadings at different stages of the disease, especially since current guidelines do not cover stages three and four in AIDS patients, the NGOs held.
"The current guidelines has loopholes, they do not include stage three and four HIV positive patients. The government and the non-government anti-retroviral therapy (ART) centers across the country provide health check-ups and medication needs. But only medication does not help; patients needs health insurance as most of the surgical procedures are extremely expensive," Nochiketa Mohanty, national development manager, AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF), India said.
In 2006, UNAIDS estimated that there were 5.6 million people with AIDS in India. In 2008, the figure was confirmed to be 2.5 million.