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From the Editor

HIV treatment hubs exist to serve you… and to profit off of you

Even if your treatment hub “only” serves 1,000 clients, for example, you multiply that by ₱39,500.00, they still earn from ₱39,500,000.00 per year. Know that, first, they’re not there “just to serve you”. They’re there to make money off of you. So demand for services that’s rightfully yours, and protest if they refuse.

In an ideal world, health care facilities would exist mainly to make sure people are given care for them to be at their best, which would then translate to them becoming good (and yes, productive) parts of society. But let’s emphasize the word “ideal”. Because in truth, this isn’t always the case; a lot of these facilities do not exist solely to help you become better versions of your selves. In the Philippines, dealing with HIV serves as the best example here/good case to stress this.

Simulan natin dito (Let’s start here): Every Filipino living with HIV who pays PhilHealth is allocated with ₱39,500.00 per year for their treatment and care (this is under the OHAT Package). Kung ikaw ay (If you are) HIV positive at bumibisita sa (and you visit a) treatment hub, you know those documents they make you sign every quarter/every three months? That’s for them to be able to collect the money for you from PhilHealth. Ang siste (The system), they file these claims to PhilHealth every three months.

This is also why you only get three bottles of your medicines; meaning, you return every quarter, which is aligned with that schedule of filing for claims for PhilHealth. Because for many PLHIVs, when refilling your medicines, you don’t even get laboratory tests, et cetera; you basically just “visit” your treatment hub, sign the PhilHealth documents, be given three bottles of antiretroviral (ARV) medicines, and then… repeat this again in three months.

Filipinos with HIV should have noticed other things, too, e.g.:

  1. There are treatment hubs that will only give one bottle of ARV if the PLHIV has not fully paid their PhilHealth. They are told to return with proof that they have fully-paid their PhilHealth contribution.
  2. There are laboratory tests that will not be provided to any PLHIV who has yet to pay PhilHealth. Same as above, they are told to return if they have already paid their PhilHealth contribution.

These should emphasize to all that, no, HIV treatment hubs do not exist just to render services; instead, they have to make money, too. And they make lots of money from PLHIVs’ PhilHealth. In the aforementioned examples, they refuse to give lifesaving meds and services because – to be blunt – there’s no guarantee that they’d be able to collect money through the non-paying PLHIV. Because in truth, fuck if they really care; they’d refuse the services if it means they won’t earn from it.

This is important to stress because PLHIVs need to change their approaches when dealing with treatment hubs, e.g.:

  1. Ask for your statement of account; you have every right to see how that ₱39,500.00 is being spent since you, basically, “paid” for it via PhilHealth. Because – let’s be completely honest here – how many Filipinos with HIV have actually seen their SOAs? How many treatment hubs even actually regularly show SOAs to their clients?
  2. That saying that “sinasahuran mo sila (you pay for their salaries)” is true here, so when you encounter rude (and even abusive) people working in treatment hubs, you have every right to complain/demand for changes to be made. Sans PLHIVs’ money, they wouldn’t even be there. Working at Outrage Magazine, we have received tons of complaints about abuses experienced in treatment hubs – e.g. being told to “move to other hubs if you complain”, or “wala ka naman magagawa, ganyan talaga ang sistema (there’s nothing you can do, that’s the system)”, et cetera. Stop normalizing this, or accepting that this is normal. They get ₱39,500.00 for every PLHIV under them, so they should not be in the HIV community if the only thing they know doing is not to properly serve the clients who finance them.

Oo, alam naman nating may (Yes, we know there are) overhead costs. Keri lang/It’s okay for this to be also “covered” by the PhilHealth amount.

The DOH stated that as of May 2023 (when it last provided HIV-related data), the total number of Filipino PLHIVs totaled 116,504. Even if we’re conservative with numbers and say that only half of that access treatment hubs, we’d still have 58,252 PLHIVs. Multiply that with ₱39,500.00, and you’d get ₱2,300,954,000 per year. NOTE: This is a billion-peso industry.

In May 2023, there were 48 new HIV cases reported PER DAY. Again, even if we’re conservative with numbers and say that only 40 of them will eventually link to a treatment hub, 40 x ₱39,500.00 is still ₱1,580,000.00 per year.

So even if your treatment hub “only” serves 1,000 clients, for example, you multiply that by ₱39,500.00, they still earn from ₱39,500,000.00 per year.

And so huwag magpa-abuso, don’t allow for abuses to happen in treatment hubs. Know that, first, they’re not there “just to serve you”. They’re there to make money off of you. So ask – even demand – for services that’s rightfully yours, and protest if they refuse and yet still collect the full PhilHealth amount/money.

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The founder of Outrage Magazine, Michael David dela Cruz Tan completed BA Communication Studies from University of Newcastle in NSW, Australia; and Master of Development Communication from the University of the Philippines-Open University. Conversant in Filipino Sign Language, Mick can: photograph, do artworks with mixed media, write (DUH!), shoot flicks, community organize, facilitate, lecture, and research (with pioneering studies under his belt). He authored "Being LGBT in Asia: Philippines Country Report", and "Red Lives" that creatively retells stories from the local HIV community. Among others, Mick received the Catholic Mass Media Awards in 2006 for Best Investigative Journalism, and Art that Matters - Literature from Amnesty Int'l Philippines in 2020. Cross his path is the dare (guarantee: It won't be boring).

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