Can You Get Life Insurance If You’re HIV Positive?


There’s no doubt about it, life insurance is difficult to get if you’re HIV-positive, and usually prohibitively expensive if you can. That does not mean that there’s no chance of getting any type life insurance whatsoever – only that it will be significantly more difficult than it is for just about any other type of health condition.

Part of the problem with HIV is that the track record on it is short by insurance industry standards – only about 30 years. While certain patterns are beginning to emerge now, the depth of data isn’t anything comparable to the documented experience with other major health impairments such as cancer and heart disease. But as therapies and life expectancies increase, there is hope for the future.

How common is HIV?

Even though the number of new HIV cases has declined and stabilized since the peak of the 1980s, there are more people now living with HIV than ever. However the primary reason for the increase in the HIV population is that people are living longer with the condition, as treatment options have increased.

The most recent statistics on HIV, according to The Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation are:

  • Number of new HIV infections, 2010: 47,500
  • Number of people living with HIV: 1.1 million

  • Number of AIDS deaths since beginning of epidemic: 658,992, including more than 16,000 in 2010
  • Percent of people infected with HIV who don’t know it: 18%
  • Percent of people with HIV who are virally suppressed: 25%

An HIV test may be required

If you do have HIV, and apply for life insurance, the best course is honesty. Be sure to disclose that you have the condition on the insurance application. Even if you don’t, medical background checks will almost certainly reveal that you have it.

An HIV test will almost certainly be required. The standards for the test vary from state to state, and even upon the size of the insurance policy you are looking to take. The results of the test could indicate what options – if any – will be available for you to obtain a policy.

Higher premiums and greater chance of decline

There’s no way to sugarcoat the effect of HIV on a life insurance application. Since there are relatively few life insurance companies that will even insure a person with HIV, and strict underwriting standards if they do, the two most likely results will be:

  • Declination, or
  • Approval of a policy with a low death benefit and high annual premiums

That is not at all an optimistic outcome, but the situation is improving compared to what it was just a few years ago, when HIV resulted in an automatic decline.

The outlook for HIV patients is getting better

Up until 1995 the life expectancy for someone with HIV was just seven years. For those participating in recommended HIV therapies, and maintaining a healthy overall lifestyle, the life expectancy has increased to 24 years. That’s a substantial increase in life expectancy in under 20 years, and offers great hope for the future.

If you have successfully managed your HIV for several years – as evidence that the condition is under control – your chances of getting a life insurance policy are substantially greater. You will have demonstrated your ability to successfully manage the condition.

Life insurance is more difficult to get for younger patients

It’s virtually unique among health conditions when it comes to life insurance, but the younger you are when you contract HIV, the less likely you are to get a policy.

With a 24 year life expectancy, a 56-year-old who contracts HIV can be expected to live all the way to age 80. Roughly speaking, that’s the average life expectancy of any 56-year-old male. From an insurance standpoint, that would make this person a far lower risk.

By contrast, a 21-year-old who contracts HIV will only be expected to live until the age of 45. That almost guarantees that the insurance company will be paying a claim within the reasonably predictable future. For this reason, the younger you are when you contract HIV, the greater the likelihood that you’ll be unable to obtain life insurance at all.

Use an insurance broker or participate in a group plan

If you have HIV, the likelihood of getting life insurance is admittedly low, but you are not entirely without options.

You can work with an insurance broker who specializes in life insurance for HIV patients. The broker may be able offer you one of two plans:

Simplified Issue Insurance Plan – This type of policy has a limited death benefit – generally not more than $250,000, but the premiums will be high. You may be able to take a much lower death benefit in order to keep the premiums affordable.

Guaranteed Issue – Under this plan, you can get a policy without submitting to a medical exam. The death benefit is low – usually not more than $25,000 – and limits or eliminates the payout if you die within the first three years.

While neither of those options are perfect, they do represent an opportunity to get at least a limited amount of life insurance, and that’s always better than none at all.

If a private plan through a broker is unavailable or unaffordable, you still have one more option: group life insurance.

Group plans take everyone by virtue of the fact that they are part of the group – there are no medical qualifying requirements. Typically, they are available though employers, but they can also be purchased through trade or professional groups, or other organizations such as credit unions.

Group plans will allow you to purchase larger (though not unlimited) amounts of coverage, and to do so at the same premium rate as non-HIV participants.

Again, not a perfect solution, but much better than no life insurance at all.