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Party pa more!

After meeting people living with HIV, as well as HIV activists/advocates in the Visayas and Mindanao, Michael David Tan notes the continuing disconnect between what those in metropolitan areas claim and what’s really happening at the grassroots. “Because for as long as people who claim to be serving refuse to see what’s really happening, the Philippines’ situation will only continue to worsen. PEOPLE CONTINUE TO DIE FROM AIDS-RELATED COMPLICATIONS, even with the oft-used cliché that ‘nobody has to die from HIV at this time and age’,” Tan says.

I was in Cagayan de Oro City five days ago, and in a hospital there I met a man (who’s still in his 20s) who’s suspected to be HIV-positive. “Suspected” is the term I’m using here because, as per the doctor in the private hospital [he transferred from a public hospital supposedly because they just kept telling him there that “wala man kay sakit (you’ve no illness).”], they have to wait for approximately a month before “knowing for sure if he’s HIV-positive”.

The doctor is, of course, only complying with the INFURIATINGLY SLOW process of getting your HIV test confirmed in the Philippines. But what I continue not getting is how this waiting game continues to be in place, when acting fast is needed. This is even more annoying because the slow process (and the accompanying detrimental effects) is already acknowledged, and yet IT IS STILL IN PLACE.

Medical practitioners may say that while the confirmatory test result is yet to arrive, proper treatment, care and support is already provided the patient. In my observations, this is good and well FOR THE MONEYED. In the case of the man from Cagayan de Oro, he’s already getting treatment for his TB; but the referral to the treatment hub was not yet done, again “until we know for sure”. By the time this man left the hospital (after five days) against the doctor’s advise, he had to pay P47,000 – not a small amount for someone who’s currently out of employment.

But this man’s case wasn’t the only one raised to me.

ARV shortage that forces people living with HIV (PLHIV) to borrow meds from each other? CHECK!

No access to (or even knowledge of) the enabler fund? CHECK!

PLHIVs made to pay for their CD4 count even if this is covered by their PhilHealth? CHECK!

For that matter, limited tests given for free even if the PLHIV fully paid his/her PhilHealth? CHECK!

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Alleged RA 8504 violations? CHECK!

And then I returned to Metro Manila.

Here, we have numerous well-funded events that gather the so-called experts as they pat each other’s backs on their “successes”/“jobs well done”. It’s almost like mutual masturbation – they’re only pleasing themselves.

We have funders that actually allocate money for parties of celebrities/wannabe celebrities to supposedly reach “hard to reach” populations; instead of giving the money to developing psychosocial support systems for PLHIVs (organizations applied for these; only the former was approved and funded).

We have HIV “advocates” whose earnings from this cause allow them to buy cars and gizmos, get cosmetic surgery, tour the world, et cetera, while so many of the people they claim to be serving can’t even pay for their transportation to go to a treatment hub, or pay their PhilHealth premium so they can access the antiretroviral treatment.

And there are people working in the HIV cause actually mouthing government positions (e.g. in the past, that there’s no ARV shortage), instead of truly giving voice to the people they claim to represent.

For me, the disconnect is not only sad, it’s sickening and maddening.

Because for as long as people who claim to be serving refuse to see what’s really happening at the grassroots, the Philippines’ situation will only continue to worsen. The growing infected population is “good” if we’re talking of business, because it means more “clients” to some people. But this is abhorrent in a human rights perspective because PEOPLE CONTINUE TO DIE FROM AIDS-RELATED COMPLICATIONS, even if the oft-used cliché is “nobody has to die from HIV at this time and age”.

And so, sige, party pa more; while people are dying at your doorsteps!

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