HIV and Life Insurance

In this article...
  • There are life insurance options available for people with HIV. Learn everything you need to know about HIV and life insurance, including which policy types to consider.

An HIV diagnosis doesn't necessarily mean going without life insurance, and finding the right coverage can help you plan for your family's financial security. Understanding the issues surrounding HIV and life insurance and knowing your options can help you select the best insurer and policy type for your circumstances.

Can I Get Life Insurance With HIV?

The landscape surrounding HIV and life insurance has changed significantly in recent years. Previously, people living with HIV would struggle to obtain coverage because they often developed AIDS, giving them an average life expectancy of under 3 years. Fortunately, modern antiretroviral therapies can prevent most cases of HIV from progressing to AIDS, which means that most people living with HIV can enjoy good health and an average life expectancy.

Therefore, an HIV diagnosis won't usually prevent you from obtaining life insurance altogether. Generally, people receiving appropriate treatment can access both term and whole life policies, with many leading insurers accepting applicants with HIV. 

Future legislative changes could make it more straightforward for people with HIV to purchase life insurance. For example, California recently passed legislation to make it illegal for insurance companies to deny life insurance based on an HIV diagnosis. This legislation, known as the
Equal Insurance HIV Act, becomes effective in January 2023.

Will an HIV Diagnosis Affect My Life Insurance Premiums?

When you apply for life insurance, the company assesses the risk of insuring you in a process known as underwriting. The insurer uses information such as your age, health status and lifestyle to determine how likely you are to pass away during the term or early in a whole life policy. 

Some insurers will refuse to issue life insurance to people deemed to be high risk. Alternatively, they may agree to insure you but charge higher premiums to mitigate the risk. Companies use risk classes to determine your life insurance rate — usually super preferred, preferred, standard and table ratings. While standard is the baseline life insurance rate, super preferred candidates pay the lowest premiums, followed by preferred and so on. 

A table rating means you're considered high-risk, usually because of a serious health condition or an insufficient treatment record for managing another condition. Therefore, an HIV diagnosis could affect your risk class and increase your premiums while reducing your overall insurability, especially if your diagnosis is recent and you don't have an established track record of managing your condition. 

How Do Life Insurance Underwriters Assess Applicants With HIV?

Insurers will ask you about your HIV diagnosis when you apply for conventional term or permanent life insurance. During the underwriting process, the company explores the implications of your diagnosis to determine whether to insure you and which rate to apply. Generally, insurers set a lower age limit for applicants living with HIV than those without HIV.

The primary factors underwriters consider are your overall health and the time since diagnosis. Usually, insurers will not provide life insurance coverage within a year of an HIV diagnosis. Most require evidence of a prolonged period of stable health, usually between 6 months and 5 years. You usually need to demonstrate compliance with a prescribed treatment plan to prevent your condition from progressing. 

Most life insurance companies require all applicants to answer health questions or undergo a medical exam, and you're more likely to require an exam if you have HIV. Some insurers have additional health criteria for applicants with an HIV diagnosis.

HIV and Life Insurance: What Are My Options?

There are various life insurance options for people living with HIV, although you may not qualify for all of them. Eligibility criteria vary by insurer, so you may need to speak with several companies to find one offering the policy you want. 

Term Life Insurance

Term life insurance is generally the most affordable type of traditional life insurance. These policies pay out if you die during the contracted term, usually between 10 and 30 years. Term life insurance doesn't build cash value, so you won't get a payout if you outlive the policy. It can be a good option for people with children and non-dependant spouses who only need insurance for a limited time. 

Some insurers won't offer term policies to people with HIV, and you may have to pay higher premiums if approved. Approval is more likely if you have a long track record of successfully managing your condition. 

Permanent Life Insurance

Permanent life insurance, such as whole life, universal life and variable life, lasts indefinitely as long as you maintain your premium payments. Your beneficiaries receive a death benefit when you die regardless of your age. These policies also accumulate cash value via a savings element, making them a potential source of retirement income. 

Like term life insurance, you may have limited permanent life insurance options and face higher premiums. Making healthy lifestyle choices, following a treatment plan and having a long track record of maintaining good health can increase your chances of approval and obtaining better rates. 

Burial Insurance

Burial insurance, also known as final expense insurance, is designed to cover expenses such as a funeral and burial after you pass away. However, your beneficiaries can use the payout for any purpose, making burial insurance a potential alternative to conventional products if you struggle to obtain coverage.

Generally, insurers have fewer health eligibility requirements for taking out burial insurance, and some offer guaranteed issue policies available to any applicant. Typically, you'll need to be 45 or older to buy burial insurance, and most companies only provide death benefits up to

Simplified Issue Life Insurance

Simplified issue life insurance doesn't require a medical exam, but you will need to answer questions about your health. Whether you can get simplified issue life insurance with an HIV diagnosis depends on the provider. These policies tend to cost more than regular term or whole life insurance and offer relatively low death benefits. 

Guaranteed Issue Life Insurance

Guaranteed issue life insurance has no health eligibility requirements. Therefore, you can get a guaranteed issue policy if you have HIV. These whole life policies are riskier for insurers, so they usually come with hefty premiums. Furthermore, you're unlikely to find a policy with a death benefit higher than $25,000

Group Life Insurance

Many employers offer their employees affordable group life insurance policies, and some pay your premiums as part of your benefits package. These policies don't usually have health eligibility criteria, though death benefits might be limited.

How Do I Purchase Life Insurance If I Have HIV?

It's sometimes worth going through an agent with experience handling high-risk applications if you have HIV. Agents with specific expertise can focus on the most suitable providers and help you frame your application as well as possible. 

When you apply, you'll need to supply the following information:

  • Treatment plan details
  • Diagnosis date
  • CD4 count and viral load
  • Details of any symptoms associated with HIV
  • Information about your general health and other conditions
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