People diagnosed with and living with HIV may find that life is no longer quite the same. Although a manageable disease, the stigma associated with being HIV-positive may still be felt and it may manifest itself in some unexpected areas. The St. Maarten AIDS Foundation maintains that people living with HIV are entitled to the same rights as anybody else in all walks of life and endeavors to protect those rights where breached.
One of the main advocacy efforts is around access to cheaper medication. On St. Maarten, no generic HIV medications are available thus leading to high prices of treatment. The St. Maarten AIDS Foundation continues to advocate for access to cheaper treatment, and has held discussions with numerous regional and international organizations but this has proven to be challenging due to the fact that St. Maarten falls under the Dutch Kingdom patent laws and is not allowed to import generic medications until patents have expired, which is not set to occur for a number of years.
Second area of advocacy is around access to life insurance policies and mortgages. These two are linked because mortgage applications often ask for proof of life insurance.
The public is advised to check their insurance policies very carefully before buying an insurance policy. Check for exclusions, and ask specifically for inclusion of HIV/AIDS treatment. It is important that HIV/AIDS is included even if you think that you are not at risk. Many people think they are not at risk, but in fact EVERYBODY WHO IS SEXUALLY ACTIVE runs some risk. How big or small that risk depends on your behavior. Also check if medical insurance will be for life coverage or if the insurance will expire at a certain age.
Employers who buy group insurance for their employees should check specifically if HIV/AIDS is included in the policy and receive all this information in writing.
A survey was undertaken in November 2004 to take stock of the various insurance policies available on the island, with the intention to open the discussion with Government, St. Maarten Insurance Broker Association, Consumer Foundation, Unions, Persons Living with HIV/AIDS and last but definitely not least with all Insurance Providers on St. Maarten, to improve access to Medical Insurance, Life Insurance and Funeral Insurance for those living with HIV.
Another area of advocacy is in workplace rights. In 2013, the Foundation will be working in collaboration with the Department of Labor to ensure that businesses on the island adopt the National HIV/AIDS Workplace Policy (launched in December 2012), which vouches for equal rights of workers regardless of the HIV status.
Finally, where needed, the Foundation seeks to help and mediate on behalf of those facing discrimination in the workplace or in housing, by providing fact-based information to those who may not be aware and by educating on the rights of those living with HIV. Click here to contact us for more information on how we may be able to help.