From the Editor

Re-stressing the need to go beyond just testing…

Michael David C. Tan on the seeming overemphasis on ONLY HIV testing: “You can’t just test people and then – after finding out they’re reactive/positive – ‘dump’ them to become somebody else’s problem. Because if/when you do, your concept of service provision is too limited, and as such, you’re actually part of the problem you claim to be dealing with…”

IMAGE FROM PIXABAY.COM

So last night, just as I was about to sleep, I got a frantic text message.

“I got myself tested,” this acquaintance – a young man – said.

I haven’t seen him for a while, maybe for months. So it was actually somewhat surprising when he messaged me, to begin with.

“And?” I asked after a short “Hey, how’ve you been?”.

“I wanna die,” he quipped.

That text messaging turned into an impromptu mini-counseling.

But – over/above the texting – two nagging thoughts were in my head.

On the one hand – based on the monthly report sent out by the HIV/AIDS & ART Registry of the Philippines (HARP) – the number of Filipinos getting infected with HIV continue to be high, with 918 new HIV cases reported in October 2017. Yes, males continue to be mostly affected (95% of the new cases); sex remains the main mode of transmission (873 of the 918 cases in October; and Filipinos getting infected are still getting younger (in October, 269 or 29% of the cases were among youth aged 15-24 years and 96% were male).

But on the other hand, that the responses in the Philippines to deal with HIV continue to be fucked up can’t be stressed enough.

And on the latter, the service “providers” are – at times – the problem.

“The clinic told me to go to (a treatment hub) tomorrow to have my lab tests done,” he said after I was able to assuage (at least even some, I hope) of his worries.

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I was… surprised. “Tomorrow’s a Saturday. Will the hub be open then?”

“I don’t know,” he said. “They just told me to go.”

“Will someone be going with you?”

“No.”

Apparently, “after the rapid test, they just told me to ‘Go to PGH bukas/tomorrow.’” And that’s that; he was dismissed.

I started to stress. For him. Which led to me conversing with PAFPI’s Moses Myro Ayuha, who was – rightfully – quick to lament the “lack of continuum of care.”

One can’t help but feel that the famed (and well-funded) clinic where this young man got himself tested just doesn’t care. It almost felt like they just wanted to “include” him as a number, one of the people they can claim to have “reached”. And now that he’s been counted (to be included in their reports to their funders, no doubt), they’re washing their hands of him; like he’s no longer “their issue.”

Pinapasa sa iba ang tungkulin (The duty/responsibility is passed to others),” Ayuha said.

And this is what’s… sad, annoying, anger-inducing, et cetera.

When people whose lives have been totally changed are yet again treated as just numbers. In case anybody forgets, lives are at stake here

Like PAFPI’s Ayuha, The Red Ribbon Project’s Ico Rodulfo Johnson (after hearing of this same story) quipped: “What else is new?”

Yeah, yeah, I know that people are – in the end – responsible for themselves. But this seeming “dumping” of a new PLHIV has long been lamented as one of the reasons for “loss to follow-up”. The likes of Quezon City’s Health Department’s John Jardenil (who used to be with the now-defunct Remedios AIDS Foundation Inc.) knows this too well, considering that – in servicing the HIV community – he actually personally links people to TCS (treatment, care and support) if/when they test HIV-positive. “People have to be helped to help themselves,” Jardenil said.

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And so the need to yet again focus ALSO beyond the testing.

I suppose that even with the number of “service providers” to get more Filipinos tested for HIV growing, the current “limit” for many is to “just test”. There seems to be this uncaring attitude with what happens after the testing.

I say: You can’t just test people and then – after finding out they’re reactive/positive – “dump” them to become somebody else’s problem. Because if/when you do, your concept of service provision is too limited, and as such, you’re actually part of the problem you claim to be dealing with…

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