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Op-Ed

5 Reasons why it’s time to move to a new HIV treatment hub

“If you have even a single concern, or a question in the way people in your current treatment hub is treating you, I strongly suggest that you move. Because if you don’t, then the abuse done to you will just continue, and could worsen.”

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I’ve moved from one HIV treatment hub to another. And mind you, I did not make the decision to move lightly; instead, so many things happened that pushed me to moved. Yes, some of these are personal reasons, but – it is worth stressing – many of the reasons had to do with the hubs themselves.

For me, here are some of the reasons why you should consider moving to a new treatment hub already because if you stay, you actually end up not just getting bad service/s, but those in those hubs also profit off you while abusing you.

1. NON-COMPASSIONATE SERVICE

I’ve been told by a nurse that “kaya nagkaganyan ka kasi di mo inayos ang buhay mo”, as if I needed to be told that I may have done something that zealots (like herself, if I may say so) do not agree with, and which made me HIV+.

The truth is: heartless service providers = bad service because they really don’t care about you, or at least care enough to not look down at you. Eto pa, they actually get paid with money coming from the likes of us, and then they have the guts to be inhumane.

2. BELITTLING PLHIVs

Related to the above, I have met people working in hubs who actually openly state their seeming disgust of people living with HIV, the very people they’re supposed to serve. An example: A deaf PLHIV asked me to help him coordinate through the hotline of his hub, and the person who answered the phone told me to “force” the PLHIV to directly contact them. When told the client is Deaf (which they should have known since it’s in their records), he just said: “Kung may reklamo siya sa proseso, umalis siya sa hub namin.”

3. INACTION AND MISACTION

Inaction is when the hubs choose not address PLHIV concerns – e.g. CD4 machines are not working, but instead of getting it fixed or getting a new machine, they just make the PLHIV get CD4 tests outside. The big catch: They tell the PLHIV to pay on his own for the external CD4 test, but then they collect money from PhilHealth for a service they did not give.

Misaction is when they pretend to be doing something, but it’s the incorrect action – e.g. that exclusivist hotline that discriminates against Deaf PLHIVs.

4. LIP SERVICE; BROKEN PROMISES; PAASA

As PLHIV, were you ever told you’d be able to get CD4 test? Or VL test? Or psychosocial support? Etc. If so, and yet if none of these were eventually provided to you, then your hub is paasa. This can only be made worse by – to stress – the collection of PhilHealth money even if the services are not offered.

5. MILKING THE COMMUNITY

There are two ways this is done.

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First, through misappropriation of PhilHealth money, wherein the full amount every PLHIV is supposed to use is collected by your hub even if services are not offered. This means that someone stole your money, using you (with your signature) for the collection of this money.

The second approach is through “projects” that only benefit the people running the hubs, and not the PLHIVs themselves. Have you noticed photo campaigns involving (paid) celebrities, or outreach activities involving (paid) celebrities, beauty pageants to “make” HIV ambassadors, too-many seminars in four- or five-star hotels, etc? Yes, start questioning your hub’s priorities.

Ang buod: If you have even a single concern, or a question in the way people in your current treatment hub is treating you, I strongly suggest that you move. Because if you don’t, then the abuse done to you will just continue, and could worsen. And – Nakakaloka! – they get money while abusing you.

Cagayan de Oro City-based Stephen Christian Quilacio may be known as a party-goer (and yes, there's nothing wrong with that!). But this Bachelor of Architecture grad is serious when it comes to LGBTQIA and HIV advocacies - e.g. he founded Northern Mindanao AIDS Advocates (NorMAA) to mainstream the issues of people living with HIV in Mindanao; and produced "Lima" and eventually "Red Lives" via community theater to share HIV-centric stories particularly to grassroots community. Pushing for fringe communities to no longer be excluded is what drives Stephen; and "if this can be done in a fun way, so much the better," he smiled.

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