Activist  Pressure Results in AVBOB Changing its Discriminatory Policy Against People with HIV/AIDS

Randmeester, Hollard and other funeral insurance companies must also end discriminatory policies against people with HIV/AIDS

1 September 2003

On 26 August, the Financial Sector Coalition Campaign (SACP, AIDS Consortium, TAC, Black Sash and ALP) held a picket outside AVBOB's offices in Johannesburg. AVBOB  provides funeral insurance. Instances of the company refusing to pay out insurance to the families of people who the firm suspects of having died of HIV/AIDS were brought to the attention of the coalition. The company argued that this was justifiable because the policy-holders had not disclosed their status when the policy was taken out. However, many people do not know their HIV status when they take out funeral policies, nor are they properly informed by brokers on the exclusion clauses in the policy.  The Coalition had a number of meetings with AVBOB management caling on them to remove the disclosure clause. After the picket was announced, AVBOB called for a meeting with representatives of the coalition and informed them that a new product had been introduced as of 1 August 2003. This new product did not require medical examinations or disclosure, but only that the policy-holder does not die within 6 months of the policy being taken out. The Coalition has welcomed this new product.

Pressure must now be exerted on Randmeester, Hollard and all other funeral insurance companies to also end discriminatory practices against people with HIV/AIDS.

Below is the memorandum handed over to AVBOB. Below the memorandum is a a statement by AVBOB announcing their new policy.

Memorandum to AVBOB

41 De Korte Street,
Sable Building,         
4th Floor              

Head Office of AVBOB
1.The Director: Mr AS Greeff
2.Senior Manager: Mr LB De Klerk

The AVBOB Office -Johannesburg
1.Area Manager - Ms N Emmanuel
2.Managers:     Mr Moss Moshugi
Mr Ernest Moekena
Mr Louis Lewis

26th August 2003

Dear AVBOB representative

Thank you for agreeing to receive this memorandum today. The Finance Sector  Coalition Campaign [FSCC] has been involved in discussions with AVBOB and the Life Offices Association [LOA] over a number of months.

The FSCC made up of over 50 organisations has spearheaded a campaign to pressure the finance and life insurance industry to take heed of the needs of poor and vulnerable people, and to end unfair discrimination. Leading organisations include the AIDS Consortium, the South African Communist Party, the AIDS Law Project, the Treatment Action Campaign and Black Sash.

This picket is part of a programme to end discriminatory practices against people living with HIV and AIDS.  Over the past months, various representatives of the coalition have met with management of AVBOB to raise our grievances.  We have received a number of complaints from families and members against AVBOB. Initially these related to the exclusion clause in AVBOB's policy document, which stated that irrespective of the cause of death, if the client had HIV at the time of death, then the claim would be repudiated. This was removed after pressure was brought to bear on the Funeral Insurance industry.

We also had many members and supporters who had claims repudiated, because AVBOB, 'proved' through medical investigations that the client died of HIV related illnesses and was being punished - according to AVBOB policy - for not disclosing this at the time of taking out the policy.  We have opposed this disclosure clause because many people with HIV/AIDS are not aware of their status before they die; because it was not explained properly by brokers; and because it is an invasion of privacy. A funeral policy should be a funeral policy, regardless of the cause of death.

However today, we would like to welcome the news that AVBOB has now changed its policy. We would like to use this opportunity to thank AVBOB for listening when people living with both HIV and poverty spoke out against discrimination.

We call upon AVBOB to:

1.Develop an education campaign to inform communities about the new product they are announcing today, with details of how this is different to the existing policy. The plan must include a public advertising campaign.

2.To offer existing policy holders the choice of updating their current policies in an informed manner, so as not to be penalised by non-disclosure clauses that may exist in their policy.

3.To announce clear timeframes which will allow for the phasing out of the old policy.

We would also like to call upon companies like Randmeester, Hollard and all other funeral insurance companies to end unfair discrimination against people living with HIV and AIDS and their families.

As the coalition we promise to:

1.Continue to monitor the practices of AVBOB through the experiences of our constituency.

2.Announce plans to picket companies like Hollard and Randmeester, if they do not make public statements declaring that they have removed all discriminatory clauses relating to a person's HIV status from their policies in the next three months.

3.Work with communities to build co-operatives that will offer all funeral services including cheap coffins, to meet the basic needs of poor communities as opposed to making a profit.

4.Work with companies like AVBOB and the Life Offices Association [LOA] to train brokers and intermediaries on basic information relating to pre and post test counselling, and management of HIV and AIDS.

We look forward to building a constructive working relationship with the private sector and end practices that deny people with HIV their basic human rights to dignity, equality and access to socio-economic rights.

Signed by the SACP, AIDS Consortium, TAC, Black Sash and ALP


1.    AVBOB confirms that there is no aids exclusion clause contained in any of its products and although this clause was included in some of our older products and in its pricing AVBOB has since October 2001 waived the right to execute this clause.

2.    Regarding non-disclosure in respect of our existing policies, we do not repudiate claims if we suspect that the client died of HIV/Aids.
Any condition that would have had a material influence on the assessment of the risk e.g. heart problems, diabetes, high blood pressure, tuberculosis, etc. could be regarded as non-disclosure if the questions were not correctly answered.

3.    At present out new product does not require any medical or non-medical questions to be answered.  It does not have a disclosure clause as such.  As long as the policyholder does not die within the first six months, the claim can be finalized on receipt of an official death certificate on the insured life without obtaining further information relating to the cause of death.

4.    AVBOB will promote this new product and policyholder benefit and invite current policyholders to voice any concerns or problems they may have.  The staff in our client service department and call centre as well as representatives and brokers are trained and committed to advise policyholders in this regard.

5.AVBOB recognizes the seriousness of the aids epidemic as well as our social responsibility in this regard, and within our ability we will endeavour to make funeral products and services accessible to all.

In closure, AVBOB welcomes the opportunity to work with civil society organisation or any other organisation to improve the conditions and service to all the people in South Africa, including people living with HIV/Aids.  We would also like to invite members of the Aids Consortium to contact us directly regarding specific issues from individual policyholders.

25 August 2003