Yes, I'm gay. I probably was since the day I was born. On my 21st birthday, I sort of had my debut. I came out to my parents. A little drama from mom, and some indifference from dad. An above-average coming out. Almost perfect.

Nine years later, two weeks before my 30th birthday, I found out... I'M HIV POSITIVE.

And so my story begins... I'm BACK IN THE CLOSET.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Funder Blunder

The Philippines and HIV have made headlines again. International headlines at that. It’s just a shame that it’s not something good. And nope, it wasn’t even anything about the number of deaths, new infections or prevalence or anything like that. It was something even more controversial. I doubt if you could even fathom it.

But then again, in the Philippines, anything can happen.

Global Fund grants have been directed towards efforts for three major areas of concern: Malaria, Tuberculosis, and HIV. The Global Fund has given over US$200 million in grants to the Philippines, a part of which is instrumental in affording free ARVs to 636 of us Filipinos who live with HIV, as well as the provision of other services, programs and efforts in line with HIV. And now, this funding has been suspended. Yes, suspended. What happened?

The Global Fund has three Principal Recipients of its grants for HIV to the Philippines: Pilipinas Shell Foundation, the Department of Health or DOH, and the Tropical Disease Foundation or TDF. And one of them has racked up over US$195 million in grants, of which US$1,000,000 remains unaccounted for. You’d expect it to be the DOH, because of the reputation of the Philippine government and its officials... but surprisingly, it’s not the DOH.

I first encountered the TDF during my debut into the HIV world, back when I was still frantically searching online. I was searching for information, and individuals and groups that could possibly help me out. I chanced onto their website, and remember sending an e-mail to someone from their HIV program, whose e-mail address I found on the site. I was simply asking what kind of assistance they provided, and if I could be eligible for any of it considering I was just diagnosed with HIV. Sadly, I never received any reply from them.

As the Principal Recipients of the Global Fund, I’m guessing that from the TDF and the other Principal Recipients, the money gets distributed to the grassroots institutions like the RITM and San Lazaro, as well as organizations like our faaaaavorite NGOs. But then of course, as the top-level beneficiaries to the grants, it is the Principal Recipients who are held accountable for whatever money they received... an accountability and a responsibility that the TDF has allegedly forgotten.

According to reports, the TDF has failed to properly account for US$1,000,000 of the grants that it has received from Global Fund. The Global Fund has coined the amount as “unauthorized expenditures”. As a result, the Global Fund has opted to suspend further funding until the whole amount has been accounted for or reimbursed. US$1,000,000?! Almost PhP50,000,000?! Good luck with that.

Indeed, good luck is what is needed, especially for us who should be benefitting directly from the grant. Because of the controversy that the TDF has fallen into, Global Fund is said to have suspended enrollment of new beneficiaries into the program. New beneficiaries, as in new pusits. Which I think means no one will be starting their HIV journeys under the support of Global Fund in the meanwhile. Fortunately, the way I understand it, for us who are already under the programme, the support will continue. Whew.

I’m not going to go on ranting to whomever and at whatever at this point. I certainly do not know all the details. Of course, I do still hope against the possibility of the money making its way towards the personal gain of those who should not have been benefitting from it. We all know how money can make the world go ‘round... and how it can harden hearts and cloud minds. Hopefully, it’s just some administrative or accounting glitch that we’re dealing with here. Only heaven knows what really happened to that money.

One solution that is being looked into, I believe, is to replace the TDF as Principal Recipient of their part of the grant. Meetings for this have been scheduled for October 19th. It is said that the DOH is being eyed to fill the void. And if I understand it right, once the new Principal Recipient of TDF’s part of the grant has been established, the support will also be reinstated along with it. My fingers are crossed that it will really be that easy.

I’m running on my last month’s supply of ARVs. I’m scheduled to get a refill sometime November. Should I be worried that the next time I go to get a refill, I might not get any? Not yet. Not at this point, at least. Until someone comes up to me and says, “I’m sorry B.I.T.C.H., we’re no longer going to be able to provide free ARVs from now on,” I refuse to be bothered. Worrying just won’t help.

I see “suspended” as postponed, deferred, or delayed. Not stopped. Meaning it can go back to how it was before. I’m really trying to stay positive in all senses of the word. I’m just thankful that the Global Fund has not decided to completely cut its ties with the country and its beneficiaries here altogether... myself included. I know that as someone who may be directly affected by this problem, it should be easy for me to crucify anyone who may be the cause of this controversy. But you know what, if there is indeed anyone letting greed run his show, then I leave him to his karma.

Read more on this story from the Global Fund and the Philippine Star, and the response of the Tropical Disease Foundation to the allegations.


odin hood said...

tsk tsk tsk... sana maayos na rin ang issue na yan... hoping for the best...

Ming Meows said...

until now, may ganun paring issues na ganyan?


ayan kasi naman mga mag nanakaw kasi hindi iniisip ang kapakanan ng kapwa kundi bulsa.

youre right bitch they will have their own karma as in KARMA sana ang mga kamaganak nila mag kakaroon ng hiv para balikan sila ng kasalanan nila. they will be depriving others someday because of GREED!

The Green Man said...

I heard that TDF had some discrepancies with the budget they were allocating for the tuberculosis part of the funding.

But the Global fund give funding for the triumvirate (malaria, TB and HIV/AIDS). So bad TDF, bad!

I also heard and was happy that DOH is the new principal recipient. I hope they won't make the same mistake.

I hear what that Positive community have to say... I wonder what the TB and the Malaria group's angsts

I saw Papi n the gym yesterday. We chatted the usual way. It was a good feeling to see a familiar face in a place not so familiar to me.

Anonymous said...

this is sad news :-( especially for the newly diagnosed HIV positives. Sana maayos na tong gulo na to.

Sana ma-karma buong pamilya ng mga magnanakaw na yan! -chronicles of e



Anonymous said...

I don't think may nagakaw ng pera mula sa side ng TDF. Auditor nila ang SGV at ever since wala namang anomalya na nakita sa kanilang mga libro. Meron pang isang auditing firm, ok din naman ang mga results. As i heard, parang nagamit ata ang pera ng isang round of grant para sa isa pang round of grant dahil kulang na ang pera para sa round na yun, at hindi pa kailangan ang pera sa isa, something to that effect. Marami na kasing rounds, pang 6 na ata ang sa HIV. Dati ok ang process na yun pero ngayon ata hindi nila nasabihan ang GF.

GF has named the DOH as the primary recipient for HIV. Actually, the DOH should be the primary recipient for all the grants (TB, HIV, Malaria) to avoid health programs running parallel to our government's health programs. There is the risk of redundancy because GF money is just too big. What is actually happening right now is that we are working to meet the demands of the GF grants instead of it responding to what we really need.

The DOH is one of the best agencies we have. Its problem is not corrupt officials/staff getting money for themselves. The agency just doesn't have the absorptive capacity yet to handle big money that's why many NGOs are providing technical assistance to it when it comes to fund utilization and expenditure tracking.

I really wish we could turn back time when scientists and doctors knew right away how HIV is transmitted. I feel deep sympathy for all positives. Many friends of mine have gone because of the infection. I saw their suffering and it was heartbreaking. The ARVs now and the recent vaccine give us hope against HIV but this doesn't mean we should be less careful.

Live and love as if there were no tomorrow but we must protect our health at all cost.