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From the Editor

Is the autonomy of HIV treatment hubs feeding profiteering?

Have you noticed that every HIV treatment hub offers different services even if all of them receive ₱39,500.00 per Filipino living with HIV from PhilHealth via the OHAT Package? They’re autonomous. But this opens the door to profiteering at the expense of Filipinos with HIV.

Napansin nyo ba na (Have you noticed that) every HIV treatment hub offers different services to those who are enrolled in them as clients? This is even if all of them receive ₱39,500.00 per Filipino living with HIV from PhilHealth via the OHAT Package. This is because of two reasons, i.e. 1) these treatment hubs are – in a word – autonomous/self-directed; and 2) PhilHealth’s OHAT Package is NOT very specific on what services the PLHIVs should get.

To stress, the 2015 version of the OHAT Package only stated (and provided a “guideline”) that this amount is supposed to cover items INCLUDING “drugs and medications, laboratory examinations based on the specific treatment guideline including Cluster of Differentiation 4 (CD4) level determination test, viral load (if warranted), and test for monitoring anti-retroviral (ARV) drugs toxicity and professional fees of providers.”

Supposedly, “harmonization” should have happened years and years ago. In 2015, Outrage Magazine interviewed Department of Health (DOH) Usec. Vicente Y. Belizario Jr. who was quoted as saying that “DOH mandates the minimum package (to be provided by hubs to PLHIV)… but (health care) is decentralized… The challenge is to ensure harmonization, which we will continue to push.”

But since the services are still NOT “harmonized” (nine years after that interview), then DOH is – definitely – failing on this front.

But let me say two things here.

It is definitely worth calling out, and even demanding for the DOH to properly do its job related to this by coming up with an implementable policy on this harmonization. Kilos-kilos din sana (Here’s hoping you’d also act on this).

But it is also worth calling out treatment hubs for seeing the lack of any DOH policy related to harmonization of services as a way to profit more from people living with HIV by cutting the number of services given to them.

Ganito yan: Bawat PhilHealth-paying PLHIV, may ₱39,500.00 galing sa OHAT Package. Kung ang “ginastos” ng treatment hub mo sa iyo ay totaling ₱10,000.00 lang (for instance, kung gamot lang ang pinakinabangan mo at kung wala ka naman laboratory tests na ginawa sa buong taon, or kung meron man, ikaw ang pinagbayad sa mga ito), yung “sukli” na ₱29,500.00, nasa treatment hub na yan.

As FYI: There are treatment facilities that are government-helmed (e.g. Social Hygiene Clinics/SHCs). The money, in this case, does not automatically go to the SHCs, but the local government units/LGUs. The same principle remains, however – i.e. there’s “excess” money that goes where it’s not supposed to go.

This is why we call out DOH. But knowing it’s DOH, well…

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And this is also why we don’t let the treatment hubs off the hook.

  1. For PLHIVs: Ask for your statement of account every time they make you sign for them to collect more, more, MORE money from PhilHealth. Always check where the money is going (because it’s supposed to be spent on you, to ensure you stay healthy while living with HIV). If they don’t show you a statement of account, prangkahan na (let’s be frank), there’s “magic” happening.
  2. Kalampagin/Call out abusive treatment hubs that should not be allowed to profit off the misery of PLHIVs. Note: The DOH does not even have a process of de-accreditation (LOL).

Andami pa ring Pinoy na may HIV na namamatay, and yet andami namang pinagkikitaan ang HIV “advocacy”. Kaya tama na; kalampagin na ang mga umaabuso (too many Filipinos with HIV still die, and yet too many profit from HIV “advocacy”. So enough already; let’s loudly call out the abusers).

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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