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Last Updated: Tuesday, 10 July 2007, 13:35 GMT 14:35 UK
India firm plans HIV health cover
By Sunil Raman
BBC News, Delhi

An HIV positive woman in India
A lot of stigma is attached to HIV-Aids in India
A private insurance company has announced India's first-ever health cover for HIV-positive people.

Star Health and Allied Insurance Company, based in the southern city of Madras (Chennai), says the scheme will provide cover of up to $1,100.

Aids activists have hailed the move saying it will bring psychological relief to HIV-positive people.

According to UN-backed official estimates, India has nearly 2.7 million people infected with the HIV virus.

Chief of Star Health, V Jagannathan, says the scheme will be available to HIV-positive patients if they pay an annual premium of 3,000 rupees ($70).

'Good scheme'

He says once an HIV-positive person is diagnosed with full-blown Aids, they can get the insured sum of money from the firm.

The chief of India's anti-Aids programme, K Sujatha Rao, told the BBC that the scheme looks "good".

But, she says, it is essential to work out a payment plan. "Many people may not be able to afford to pay 3,000 rupees every year to buy the insurance cover," she says.

Indian truckers
Truck drivers are one of the professions at high risk from HIV-Aids

Ms Rao's view is echoed by 33-year-old Pradeep Dutta who is HIV-positive.

Mr Dutta is happy that an insurance company has finally come forward to provide medical cover to people like him.

"A sum of 50,000 rupees will be a big help to someone in my situation. As I'm HIV-positive no bank will give me a loan. I can use this money for my treatment or I can use it for my family."

But, he says, "paying 3,000 rupees every year is beyond my means. My family has exhausted their entire savings on my treatment and now we cannot afford to pay any more."

Mr Dutta wants the government or a local charity to subsidise the premium amount.

Keen

Mr Jagannathan says his company is ready to subsidise the scheme for HIV-positive patients if an NGO or a self-help group comes forward to share the costs.

The scheme has found favour with the government of the southern state of Andhra Pradesh which is a high HIV-prevalence state.

State Aids Society chief, Dr Ashok Kumar, says the state government is quite keen to implement the scheme.

"The government cannot finance the project fully and we have asked an NGO working with HIV-positive people, Network of Positive People, to part fund the scheme," he says.

The discussions are going on, he says.

In India a lot of stigma is attached to HIV-Aids on account of it being a sexually-transmitted disease.

Awareness is generally low and HIV-positive people have to regularly face discrimination in society.




SEE ALSO
India minister vows to beat Aids
24 Nov 03 |  South Asia
Fighting Aids on India's highways
21 Nov 03 |  South Asia

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