Studying these cells could lead to new treatments for diseases ranging from gastrointestinal disease to diabetes.
An MIT employee who gets infected with a human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) from a documented workplace incident will be paid $100,000 through an unusual new insurance policy.
The payment is to be made promptly upon proof of the HIV infection, which may occur as much as 10 years before a person develops the physical symptoms of AIDS.
The prompt payment differs markedly from most of the new AIDS disability insurance policies, which only pay benefits once a person is ill with AIDS.
This coverage was developed by the Institute and the Harvard-Affiliated Medical Institutions. It is effective as of January 1, 1993, and under limited circumstances, may provide coverage for incidents occurring prior to the effective date.
Any such incident or potential exposure, such as an accidental needle puncture or being splashed with possibly contaminated blood or body fluids, should be reported immediately in order to be eligible for the benefit. The insurance policy requires that a blood test be taken within five days of the incident, explained Thomas R. Henneberry, MIT director of insurance and legal affairs. If the initial blood test shows the absence of a human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) and if a subsequent blood test within six months does reveal HIV and the insurer determines that the infection resulted from a work-related incident, the person promptly will be paid $100,000. The US Centers for Disease Control reported in 1992 that in 11 years of the AIDS epidemic, there have been just 31 documented cases in the United States of health-care workers getting the HIV infection from workplace exposures.
Mr. Henneberry said the new coverage is in addition to other MIT health and disability insurance coverage, and does not restrict individuals' right to sue in cases where there are allegations of negligence.
Information on the new coverage is currently being mailed from the benefits office.
"The Institute and the Harvard-Affiliated Medical Institutions are committed to providing quality health care to all patients, regardless of HIV status," said MIT Vice President Constantine B. Simonides, who made the announcement. "While data from the Centers for Disease Control indicate that the risk of infection to health-care workers is very small, we recognize that treatment of patients with this disease exposes employees to some risk. We are also aware that employees who are not health-care workers may be exposed to HIV in the course of their employment. Therefore, we want to provide support to these workers who might become infected with HIV.
"The Benefit Plan will be administered by the Risk Management Foundation, which also administers the Medical Malpractice and General Liability Insurance Programs for the Institute and the Harvard-Affiliated Medical Institutions."
A version of this article appeared in the January 6, 1993 issue of MIT Tech Talk (Volume 37, Number 17).