This is Our Reality

Posted by Pozziepinoy on 6:20 PM

It is a sad reality though.

In the Philippines, even if it is already 2017, young people are still dying because of AIDS.  Period. That sums up the condition of HIV and AIDS in the Philippines. 30 long years have passed of HIV and AIDS in the entire world and yet the Philippines is one of the few countries where HIV cases are peaking up, and AIDS claiming lives.

Where have we gone wrong?

For decades, we could have arrested the spread of HIV in the Philippines. We witnessed the slow waves of cases from the 80's and 90's but the efforts weren't too aggressive about containing the virus before. We waited and now the cases are rising fast and our programs are slow as compared to its rising rate.

The Department of Health's budget is not enough, a big part of it is focused on treatment rather than prevention and awareness. There is not even a line item in DOH for HIV and AIDS and it eats up the budget among the "other infections-line item".

The local government units are slow in helping abate the now epidemic. The Department of Education still clamors that they don't have manpower to spread information, even so, budget in training and implementation of HIV programs in schools. Although there should be a curricum as the impacted young key affected population is on the rise, up to now, the education system is too slow to educate the school and university students about the realities of HIV and AIDS in the country. Local government units in Visayas region are now struggling with harm reduction programs for drug users, one of the issues of the region in the spread of HIV.

The HIV Law (RA 8504) is still lacking teeth that there are still lapses about disclosure and confidentiality in some facilities. Even with the mandate of the HIV Law to the Department of Labor and Employment to implement an HIV in the work place policy in all companies and agencies, still this is not being implemented and observed. Instead companies continue to pay the fine of less than P500 (around $12) every year to not have it. Even most hospitals, clinics , schools, colleges, universities and government agencies don't have an HIV in the workplace policy being implemented to educate even their employees.

A lot of LGBTQIA organizations don't even have HIV programs. Though the cases are rising in these key affected population, the organizations need to continuously tapped for engagement for awareness, prevention, treatment, care and support.

HIV is a problem for everybody not only of the LGBTQIA communities. It is not only a concern of the males having sex with males community even though it has the most cases. Everybody should be involved. However, with the anti-discrimination bill which up to now is not being signed into law, the  testing facilities are still not considered "safe" places for the LGBTQIA.  If the idea that HIV is a ''gay plague" or punishment, which up to now haunts the Philippines (30 years, and the Philippines still have this notion), information about HIV and AIDS and the human rights related to HIV and AIDS have not reached the general population.

Health care system is challenged when it comes to delivery of care. Yes, we have more than 100 HIV testing centers and we have HIV and AIDS Treatment hubs distributed all over the Philippines. However, there's more to it than meets the eye. Though the country is decentralizing services, however, there are a lot of issues surrounding the quality of health care for HIV and AIDS. One, trained medical doctors are now being tapped as heads of the treatment hubs because of the lack of HIV-infectious disease doctors. Two, most of the hubs don't have enough equipments (CD4 and VL machines) for diagnosis and clinical prognosis. Lack of facilities force an individual to have his blood sent to Manila for clinical diagnosis. Three, although there is PhilHealth covering P30,000 of the lab tests and later on (as included in the OHAT Guidelines) the trust fund will cover the antiretroviral medicines, other AIDS related infections are not covered by Philhealth. Two of the deadly infections, cryptococcal meningitis and cytomegalovirus retitinis with long term treatment regimen are becoming to be causes of death and blindness among indigent people living with HIV because they can't afford the maintenance medications. HMO's generally don't cover HIV and AIDS in the Philippines, thus an employed induvidual has to find a "friendly doctor" who will hide his condition for treatment of his AIDS related conditions. Some hospitals continue to reject patients with HIV. Some doctors won't even dare accept patients for surgical operations. Most people don't know this but some clients with HIV just surrendered and now they belong to the lost to follow up clients, who continue to suffer from repeated opportunistic infections.

Overseas Filipino workers (OFW's) continue to be discriminated in the middle east, Singapore and other muslim countries. They are accosted and jailed until they are deported. Time and again, we exposed this issue, but it failed to get noticed by media and our government.

Media is not catching up with the events that are unfolding. There is no hype except for every few days after the DOH-Epidemiology Bureau releases the monthly HIV and AIDS Registry or every major HIV and AIDS event. Nobody talks about HIV and AIDS. TV, movie and politicians are not talking about the topic because they don't want to be typecasted, perhaps because of strong religious influence or pure ignorance.

Religion and conservatism have taken a toll. Use of condom up to now is not advertised on national television, newspapers and magazines. Yes, one may see them at the counters now in grocery and convenient stores and but full promotion of it needs to be addressed when there is an impending crisis. The government efforts to promote condoms is almost always attacked and viciously attacked by religious organizations and most politicians.


Ticking Bomb.

How many Filipinos are really infected by HIV in The Philippines? A question that we won't know until there is aggressive action coming from all agencies not only the government. We won't know until all organizations, schools, companies become forceful in implementing HIV and AIDS awareness and prevention programs. promotion of HIV screening and testing and condom use and full implementation of the HIV in the workplace policy. We won't know until the human rights to information, to confidentiality, stigma and discrimination, right to quality health care continue to be challenges. For now, what we are seeing is the tip of the iceberg.

The Philippines is one country that failed to meet the Millenial Development Goal for 2015 which is zero new HIV cases and Zero AIDS Related deaths. The cases are exponentially rising but the entire nation is not paying great attention. My country is like a ticking bomb where everyone is waiting for it to explode before everyone takes action.

There is Hope.

But like many situations. there is hope. The Project Red Ribbon still believes that things will change for the better soon. We just need to continue what we are doing to create noise. We just need to use government and funding mechanisms for more impactful projects. We just need to do whatever it takes to help and empower people with HIV to come up and speak up about the HIV and AIDS human rights to information and quality health services. We just need to continue to voice out our concerns so people will listen and understand the need to support the programs to arrest the spread of HIV in the country. We need to continue to educate people to break stigma and discrimination, which are the killers not HIV per se.

In the recent years, as the Department of Health continues to decentralize testing and treatment facilities and continues to provide antiretrovirals for free to all people living with HIV, more government agencies have been providing services to people with HIV. The Department has championed programs that are working in other countries and implementing them here. Two of their impactful programs, the HIV Screening and the Prep are being piloted now. The Department also have been supporting impactful and noise making events to raise awareness. The Department is now strengthening its condom use program to stop the epidemic. 

PhilHealth continues to provide OHAT packages and an economically challenged PLHIV who is confined can benefit from their Point of Care Program in which the PLHIV can have one year of insurance paid by the agency to avail of the OHAT and the hospitalization benefits. 

The Department of Social Welfare and Development has a program for indigent PLHIV which provides:

1. Medical and Financial assistance amounting to P5,000 per quarter
2. Educational assistance every quarter
3. Livelihood Program amounting to P10,000
4. Burial assistance

The Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office provides medical assistance for hospitalization and medicine support.

The Local Government Units assists with payment of premiums of PhilHealth, assists with ambulance services and can provide medicines for opportunistic infections. Most have Local AIDS Councils now to address the needs and challenges of awareness and prevention dissemination and the needs of people living with HIV.

Some congressmen have programs for PLHIV for medical assistance. Some barangay and mayors assist in medicines and hospitalization.

We as a Foundation would like to continue educating schools, companies, organizations and local government units about HIV and AIDS. We as a Foundation will support and promote the Department of Health and fill up the gaps so that we can contribute to the arrest of HIV in the Philippines. We as a Foundation will continue to put issues in front so that they can be addressed. We as a Foundation will continue to help others, because empowering people has a direct effect to changes in behavior not only among individuals but among families and the country as a whole.



QUESTIONS ABOUT HIV AND AIDS?
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TRR HIV Hotline Numbers 

0915-427-3407
0906-390-1031
0927-287-8210
0975-387-3173

Office: TThS Phone Counselling
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(02) 656-7297


If you want to join a private HIV support group in Facebook, please add Darwin Tenoria, the TRR Program Director and request to be added in the group. We have a lot of PLHIV, counselors, HIV doctors, advocates and supporters who you can talk to.


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