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Queer(ed) Risks: Life Insurance, HIV/AIDS, and the ‘Gay Question’

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In 2004 the Association of British Insurers (ABI) issued its second Statement of Best Practice on HIV and Insurance. This prohibited use of the ‘gay question’ (employed by some underwriters in application forms for life insurance to identify heightened risk of infection with HIV), in response to growing criticism that the practice was actuarially unreliable, unfair to gay men, and unnecessary, given the availability of alternative ‘behaviour-based’ risk criteria. While the overhaul of this controversial practice is clearly a victory for gay (male) identity politics, this paper argues that the interests of gay men seem to have dominated at the expense of a more far-reaching critique of the industry's evaluation of infection risk. It contends that a more radical (or ‘queerer’) challenge is needed which can better understand and address the injustices created by criteria for appraising risk of infection that still remain in place.

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: Durham Law School, 50 North Bailey, Durham DH1 3ET, England, Email:

Publication date: December 1, 2010

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