Manulife has become the first Canadian insurance company to offer life insurance to people who are HIV-positive.

In a release Friday, the insurance conglomerate said it made the decision after it reviewed the latest mortality and long-term survival rates of HIV-positive Canadians and gained a better perspective on individual risk profiles.

The move comes as new drugs have changed an HIV diagnosis from a terminal illness to something more like a chronic disease that can be managed with proper medication.

"Manulife was the first insurer to underwrite people with diabetes, and we are continuing in that tradition by making life insurance a possibility for the more than 75,000 Canadians who have tested HIV-positive," CEO Marianne Harrison said. HIV is the virus that leads to AIDS.

"This is the result of work completed by our research and innovation team and working closely with our colleagues in the United States at John Hancock."

Promising new drugs

The company will now consider insuring people who ​have tested HIV-positive, are between the ages of 30 and 65, and meet certain other criteria for life insurance policies that would pay up to $2 million upon death.

According to the most recent government data, roughly 75,000 Canadians were living with HIV in 2014, but Ottawa estimates that more than one in five of them do not know they have the virus.

A report last year by the Canadian Observational Cohort Collaboration, an HIV research centre, said the overall life expectancy of Canadians undergoing antiretroviral treatment for HIV had climbed to 65 years.

Gary Lacasse, executive director of the Canadian AIDS Society, said he wanted to see the specifics of what Manulife is offering, but called it good news.

"If they look at the scientific data, it's a chronic disease now," he said. "It's not a deadly disease.

"We hope that the rest of the industry will follow suit."

With files from The Canadian Press