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, January 16, 2011

Meds, Grants & Insurance

PhilHealthSo as I mentioned in the story of my last trip to RITM, aside from getting my ARV refill, I ended up accomplishing something else, which was to submit partially to the RITM personnel the required documents regarding my PhilHealth. PhilHealth is the Philippine government’s health insurance system. Why is it just now that I’ve needed to submit stuff regarding my health insurance information to my HIV treatment hub?
Okay, here’s the deal. The Philippines’ ARV supply is currently supported by Global Fund grants, Global Fund being an international funding agency that somewhat focuses on HIV and AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria. And the Philippines is and has been a beneficiary for the past few years for HIV and AIDS, and Tuberculosis.

Naturally, that’s how funding works, right? You take out a grant for a project, towards certain goals for a certain time period. As that period draws to a close, the beneficiary is expected to furnish the benefactor the proper documentation to show where the funds went and how the funds were used. Causes or projects that are able to prove themselves trustworthy of funds can then usually easily apply for a new round of grants.

As such, the Philippines has been a beneficiary of the Global Fund for some time now. It is shouldering the cost of ARVs and some aspects of care and treatment such as medical consultations and laboratory tests. But at this point, a wave of anxiety and an unsure future is spreading through the whole positive community as it is being revealed that funding will cease by 2012.

Gasp! How cruel, how cruel! But is it really merely cruelty at all?

The first problem is that, from way back to my 2009 Funder Blunder entry, one of the non-government organizations, the Tropical Disease Foundation or TDF, that had served as a primary recipient for Global Fund grants, has failed to properly account for I-don’t-know-how-many millions of US dollars in grants, which the Global Fund itself has evaluated as “unauthorized expenditures“.

As a result of that, the Global Fund suspended for some time further funding of new beneficiaries, or new pusits. It was actually a relief that, later on, the funding was reinstated to the Philippines, with the Department of Health or DOH taking over the role that TDF was playing. So we all breathed sighs of relief. I’m quite uncertain though if TDF was able to fix the controversy it got into. Millions of dollars? I doubt.

The second problem is that the grant that is being enacted today, specifically for the care and treatment of HIV and AIDS, was really only meant to last until the year 2012. Meaning, 2012 marked the end of the period covered by the grant, and a new round of grants would need to be applied for beyond 2012. Simple, supposedly. But apparently, the country’s application for a new grant beyond 2012 didn’t make the deadline. Seriously? We missed a deadline?!

So who was supposed to do that on behalf of the country? The Philippine National AIDS Council, or PNAC. I’ve seen certain persons from the HIV organizations in online discussions blaming PNAC. HIV positives blaming PNAC for the oversight may be expected, of course, we are the ones who are directly affected, right?

But I must amusingly point out that these very HIV organizations are supposed to be members of, and be representing the positive community in PNAC, alongside government agencies like the DOH, DOLE, DOJ, and DSWD, and other non-government organizations. So wouldn’t their finger-pointing towards PNAC just ricochet back to their own organizations? Hmmm.

It’s just funny that, back in the day when we, the first positive bloggers, were making our voices heard, it was people from these very groups that were trying to take us down. And even more funny was that even as we were just putting together Positivism, they had tried to defame us, probably because they saw us as rivals for funding.

And now, we have them there on online discussions trying to rally us, the positive troops, around the issue, and even going as far as criticizing as being negligent of duty, anyone who is any ounce short of participating. Where the hell is all this negativity coming from? Heaven knows. Perhaps if certain people realized that snuffing positive voices and killing new advocacy groups was not part of their duty, then they could have fulfilled their responsibility to be representatives of the positive community.

Anyway, back to the problem of grants. So as a backup plan for persons living with HIV, should the time come that grants from Global Fund cease, Philhealth may shoulder the medical tests and services needed, and subsidize the cost of ARVs. So I had to leave photocopies of my Philhealth ID and my ARV regimen booklet, submit a copy of my Philhealth Member Data Record or MDR, as well as accomplished Philhealth Claim Forms 1 & 2. Just a few more things I need from my employer.

Since I’m currently employed, membership in PhilHealth is mandatory, so I get part of the premiums deducted from my salary automatically every month, while my employer is obliged to pay for another part. For those unemployed or who have never signed up for PhilHealth, there is an option of voluntary membership, which I think costs PhP200.00 or so a month.

So there. If at least, the Philippines is on the road to becoming less reliant on external funding to fulfill everyone’s, us HIV-positives in this case, basic right to healthcare.

Considering that voices from the grapevine say ARVs may still cost us around PhP3,000 a month even with PhilHealth subsidy, I think the ones who will be most affected by any interruption of Global Fund grants would be those who aren’t working. But then, having HIV is NOT an excuse to stop working, right? Not unless you’re paralyzed from the neck down or in a coma, which is hardly the case.

Some may think it’s easy for me to say that, since I’m currently employed and working right now. But then it is the truth. Having HIV is NOT an excuse to stop being productive. I’m not in a particularly secure situation myself right now... I’ll tell you about it later... but I’d still vouch for it.

But anyway, I’m not panicking about the funding issue. Stressing out about it this early just may affect my health, won’t it? And worrying about the future just ruins what you have today. We still have hope. No reason to stop hoping. Things will happen if they’re meant to happen. Que sera sera. For now, I still have the rest of my life to deal with. To infinity and beyond.

1 comment:

blessedcain said...

idol expecting for the best will attract a remedy for all this, hoping and imagining the best for this year and especially 2012 will bring us more and better fundings. let us all desire, believe and receive people in authority who will truly love to serve us with Godly motives. as for your health idol always utter that you are in perfect health and thank God for virility, love and happiness!
i miss you.