Suspension of Disbelief

Archive for the ‘It’s Never Too Late’ Category

‘It would be taboo to discriminate LGBT people’ – AFP

leave a comment »

Outrage Magazine | 20 June 2017

***

The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) – as it aims to be “A World-Class Armed Forces, Source of National Pride” – is against discrimination towards LGBT people.

This was stressed by AFP Brigadier General Jac Motril, who said that “the military organization respects, protects, and fulfills the rights of the Filipino people. It would be taboo for the AFP to discriminate against LGBT individuals.”

This is also in compliance with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, with the AFP treating “all its applicants fairly every time (we) recruit new members.”

“The provisions of the pertinent regulations in our procurement of officers and soldiers do not mention anything that would be considered discriminatory to any applicant,” Motril said.

For Motril, as long as the person interested to join the military service meets the requirements – their religion, color, sex, language, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other distinctions of status – will not be an issue.

The AFP also supposedly already improved their enlistment and reenlistment procedures for recruitment, promotion, and procurement services to become gender fair.

“We uniformly treat all military personnel equally, just like any able-bodied individual, regardless of whether they are LGBT or not,” Motril said. “The AFP is not at odds with any particular sector in the country and only focuses its attention on its mandate, which is to protect the Filipino people and secure the sovereignty of the State.”

This is also why Motril expressed his support to “all endeavors that aim to improve the lives of Filipino LGBT people.”

It is still worth highlighting that acting according to socially-defined masculine versus feminine behaviors is expected within AFP. For instance, the AFP Code of Ethics has provisions that can be used to discriminate against lesbian and gay members of the military. An example is Article 5 (Military Professionalism) Section 4.3 (Unethical Acts) of the AFP Code of Ethics, which states:

Military personnel shall likewise be recommended for discharge/separation for reason of unsuitability due to all acts or omissions which deviate from established and accepted ethical and moral standards of behavior and performance as set forth in the AFP Code of Ethics. The following are examples: Fornication, Adultery, Concubinage, Homosexuality, Lesbianism, and Pedophilia.

Motril himself acknowledged that “I know there are lesbians and gays in the Armed Forces of the Philippines, and they perform their official duties in their respective units just like any regular military personnel does. I’m not aware if there are bisexuals and transgenders (sic) in the AFP. But if there are any, I suppose they would be expected to behave accordingly with respect to AFP norms and official regulations.”

Motril personally knows of different LGBT individuals in AFP. One – a lesbian Technical Sergeant who serves as a staff member in AFP’s education and training institution – was commended for her “remarkable physical strength”, which, by AFP’s benchmark, is rated higher than some male soldiers in her unit. Another is a gay soldier who – when Motril first met in 1985 – had the rank of Private, serving as a mess assistant for a commanding general of an infantry division. He has since retired, then ranked as a Master Sergeant in the army.

“I believe that LGBTs have the right to equal protection of the law. I welcome any policy to advance the move for gender fairness and additional protection against discrimination of LGBT people,” Motril ended.

.

(Established in April 2007, Outrage Magazine remains the only publication exclusive for the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, questioning, intersex, asexual and allied community in the Philippines.)

***

OFW guide: How to make every remittance count

leave a comment »

VERA Files | 13 November 2016

***

ofw

Overseas Filipino workers are considered to be some of the hardest-working people in the country. But as unfortunate as it sounds, most of the fruits of their hard work are not put into something that can possibly gain great rewards – which in return, if managed properly, can give them the option to stop working abroad and go back to the Philippines and be with their loved ones.

Based on statistics, the remittances most of them send home are poorly managed by their families. In some cases, they are spent on unnecessary things, like buying the latest gadgets, and dining at expensive restaurants.

And this unnecessary spending can be avoided with proper financial education for both the OFW and their families.

“In order to make a big difference in the lives of OFWs and their families, there has to be a comprehensive, extensive and sustainable personal finance program nationwide. There has to be a program [that] will teach the spouses of OFWs  how to manage their money,” said registered financial planner Alvin Tabañag.

The starting point of the personal finance journey should come from the OFWs themselves.

“An OFW, or anybody for that matter, should not be too busy to make sure that his/her family’s financial future is secured,” Tabañag stressed.

He also added that financial education should be adopted by the entire family, not just the overseas worker. And the most crucial part of the journey is to teach basic money management to OFWs before they are deployed, so they can also teach it to their families before they leave.

Currently, the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration offers Pre-Departure Orientation Seminars (PDOS) to would-be OFWs.

“The PDOS is only five to ten minutes, and the topics do not cover much on the subject  of money management,” Tabañag said, “and if you bombard them with too much information, they will just shut down.”

So he proposed to make it an hour-long orientation, wherein the basics of money management will be discussed. He pointed out that it would only be effective if the families of the OFWs would also participate and make the effort to learn personal finance.

“Ultimately, it’s the OFW’s responsibility to teach his/her family how to better manage its finances. Responsible money management is more about attitude and discipline, rather than knowledge and skills,” Tabañag explained.

He also gave initial steps on how OFWs can educate their families when it comes to money management, as follows:

1) First, overseas workers should sit down with their families and talk about the importance of a secure financial future. They should ask them about their goals. After hearing their answers, the OFWs should explain what is required to achieve such goals.

2) Next is to paint a picture of the negative consequences if the families left behind do not manage the money responsibly.

“The problem with a lot of Filipinos, not just OFWs, is they do not look far enough into the future. That’s why they don’t realize or see the long-term consequences of the money decisions that they make today. But if you plan ahead and try to create a vision of the future, then probably, you would think twice about how to spend your money wisely,” Tabañag stressed.

On the part of the OFWs’ spouses, they need to realize and keep in mind that their husbands or wives who are abroad will not be working there for life. The OFWs will eventually return home and the money coming in will stop at some point. And if they do not take care of what was being earned right now, they might suffer later.

“OFWs and their families need to master budgeting and spending wisely, so they can secure their financial future. Just follow a budget which will tell you how much you need to spend for a certain period and then exercise discipline. Make every peso count. Do not spend on impulse,” Tabañag ended.

.

.

(Founded in March 2008, VERA Files is published by veteran Filipino journalists taking a deeper look into current Philippine issues. Vera is Latin for “true.”)

***

Divided we fall

leave a comment »

Outrage Magazine | 18 June 2016

***

Faces-of-LGBT

We love to say that the LGBT community revels in diversity – after all, our multi-colored rainbow flag is supposed to highlight that even if there are many of us who may come from different walks of life, we are still united in our struggle for the same cause (i.e. seeking equal rights for all).

Suffice it to say, I have seen the various faces that constitute the LGBT community in the Philippines.

I have met some who claim to represent (and – perhaps reflective of the elevating of the rich in a largely elitist heterosexual society – with actual pride at that) the “coño/conyo/konyo LGBT”, the elite who fail to see their privilege.

I have met some of the “karaniwan (common)”, whose main concern is to ensure day-to-day survival.

And I have met some of the “bekinals (a play with “beking kanal” or gays from the gutters; a term that may be politically incorrect, but is still used by many when referring to themselves to highlight their lowly status), those who are at the fringes of society; and whose very existence is marked by the hardships encountered not only by being LGBT, but also by their social status.

I’d have to say that, unfortunately, these segregations do not at all “blend”. That is, at least as far as my experience in the Philippines is showing, there’s no “waving of the same banner/flag” for the LGBT community.

We are too… broken; too divided.

And this could spell our fall.

Hear so many of the “coño/conyo/konyo LGBT” speak supposedly on behalf of the “entire LGBT community” while only focusing on such issues as marriage equality and passing the anti-discrimination bill in Congress (they do this in between parties or photoshoots or the likes). The mainstream media gives them the platform; and their allies in the ruling class (from politicians to celebrities) only “consult” with them on just about every LGBT-related issue (before publicly claiming they already spoke with the entire LGBT community). But they remain mum on other day-to-day issues, e.g. the policies being developed in Muslim areas in Mindanao that also affect LGBT people there, the effect among LGBT pensioners of the veto for SSS pension hike, and the failure of the Department of Health and PhilHealth to deal with the disparity of services offered in treatment hubs. Here, there seems to be more concern with faux publicity stunts that supposedly banned the expression of LGBT love, than actually finding practical solutions to deal with those who perpetuate the ills that affect us.

And then hear many of the karaniwan and bekinal LGBT people, whose stance is – because they are often ignored anyway – to just keep to themselves.

We call our divisions “diversity”, as if by doing so the cracks from within are covered up and are therefore made more appealing. In reality, there is nothing empowering about this often unspoken great divide.

We have to bridge the divide.

Because there is always room for everyone on the table.

Start getting immersed in different contexts. Ask the karaniwan and bekinal LGBT people to speak about their issues (in Congress/Senate, in the media). Stop only talking about the glamorous and start including issues of those who are unable to speak.

Because only if everyone is represented will our community be truly united.

And only then will we be truly a “community of diversity”.

.

.

(Established in April 2007, Outrage Magazine remains the only publication exclusive for the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, questioning, intersex, asexual and allied community in the Philippines.)

***

What the SSS pension hike means to senior LGBTs

leave a comment »

Outrage Magazine | 01 February 2016

***

 

Growing-old-and-gay

Poverty knows no sexual orientation or gender identity.

With Philippine President Benigno Aquino III vetoing the bill that would have increased the pension to be received by beneficiaries of the Social Security System (SSS), pensioners who are also members of the LGBT community are joining the fray against the move considered as both “inhumane” and “anti-poor”.

Dati akong nagtatrabaho sa isang kooperatiba (I used to work in a cooperative),” said 62-year-old gay pensioner Andrea del Rosario. “As an SSS member, my contributions were automatically deducted from my salary; and during that time, hindi ko masyadong pinag-aralan kung ano mangyayari sa kontribusyon kobasta ang alam ko, may aasahan ako pagtanda ko (I didn’t closely look at how my contributions were handled; I just knew that when I grow old, I’d have something to fall back on).”

And now that Aquino’s government refused to “give us minimal increase, even if the SSS executives profit from us, talagang pinapahirapan kami (we’re really placed in a difficult situation),” Del Rosario said.

FAILED JOURNEY

As early as March 2011 a bill seeking for an increase in monthly retirement pension to a minimum of P7,000 a month was already submitted to Congress. This did not pass, so that in January 2013, a new bill substituted the previous version, this time looking into a reduced increase of a maximum P2,000-a-month pension. In July of the same year, another bill was passed in response to the substitution, again highlighting the need for the proposed increase.

Not incidentally, also in July 2013, Aquino said in his State of the Nation Address that “it is time to amend the SSS pension scheme. We must establish measures that remedy the outflow of funds.” Interestingly, Aquino is also a defender of granting SSS executives hefty bonuses.

It was only in 2015 when, finally, the Congress approved the P2,000 across-the-board pension hike.

However, Aquino vetoed the increase in January, stating that “while we recognize the objective of the bill to promote the well-being of the country’s private sector retirees, we cannot support the bill in its present form because of its dire financial consequences.”

GROWING OLD AS LGBT

For Del Rosario, the effects of Aquino’s “anti-poor SSS stance” are very defined among LGBT pensioners like himself.

Kaming mga gay senior citizens na walang binubuhay ang mas may kailangan (Gay senior citizens like us who do not support anyone, need the money most),” he said.

On one hand, exactly because they do not support others, “wala rin kaming aasahang susuporta sa amin pagtanda namin (We expect no one to support us when we grow old),” Del Rosario said. As such, “we only live on what we get.”

On the other hand – and this is reflective of the Philippine society expecting those who supposedly do not have families of their own (such as LGBT people) to help look after the families of their relatives – Del Rosario said that his pension is also used “para makatulong sa mga pamangkin at apo (to help my nephews/nieces and grandchildren),” he said. “Sila ang aking tinutustusan at pinagbibigyan kung may hinihingi o pangangailangan sila (I support them when they ask or need something).”

The small pension he receives makes it “difficult to live, much more to help out.”

FALSE HOPE

Del Rosario said that “many like me resort to utang (borrowing money).”

Talagang hindi sapat ang nakukuha naming pensyon. Nababaon kami sa utang at ang mga lending institutions na may matataas na interest rates lamang ang nakikinabang, pinapahirapan nila kami lalo (The pension we receive is not enough. We are deep in debts, and only lending institutions with high interest rates benefit from this, as they make our lives more miserable),” del Rosario said.

He also added that he is one of many seniors – LGBT and non-LGBT – still hoping for some changes to happen to “acknowledge ang pinagdadaanan namin (what we’re going through), considering that we have to spend more sa gamot, pantustos sa mas maraming tao (for medicines, to support a bigger family)…”

But beyond this, though, Del Rosario said he hopes for a change of heart to “start ensuring that the elderly are taken care.”

Magkaroon sana sila ng magandang pananaw at kabuuang malasakit para sa mga senior citizens (I hope they gain better understanding of the plight, and have more compassion for the senior citizens),” del Rosario ended.

.

.

(Established in April 2007, Outrage Magazine remains the only publication exclusive for the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, questioning, intersex, asexual and allied community in the Philippines.)

***

QC LGBT Pride celebration: More than just a parade

leave a comment »

VERA Files | 13 December 2015

***

 

IMG_4024 copy

More than the parade, more than the march and festival, this celebration is the delivery of actual programs and policies for LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender) people,” Percival Cendaña, commissioner of the National Youth Commission, said of the recent LGBT Pride celebration in Quezon City.

The celebration took special significance held after the court ruling on Jennifer Laude’s case, which found US Marine Lance Corporal Joseph Scott Pemberton guilty of homicide.

Though many LGBT advocates and groups said that “murder” should have been the rightful verdict, they still see it as something that they can learn from. “Now, more than ever, especially because of the decision on Laude’s case, is the right time for the [LGBT] community to get together and reflect on what happened to Jennifer, and to also inspire the next course of action,” Cendaña explained.

Cendaña also said that the event is the highlight of all the achievements throughout the year, specifically the passage of the Gender-Fair Ordinance in Quezon City.

An ordinance providing for a comprehensive anti-discrimination policy on the basis of sexual orientation, gender identity and expression signed November last year, is the first of its kind in the Philippines.

IMG_3984 copy

The ordinance states: “It is hereby declared a policy of Quezon City to actively work for the elimination of all forms of discrimination that offend the equal protection clause of the Bill of Rights enshrined in the Constitution, and other existing laws and to value the dignity of every person, guarantee full respect for human rights, and give the highest priority to measures that protect and enhance the rights of all people.”

According to Councilor Lena Marie “Mayen” Juico (First District), author of the Gender-Fair Ordinance, “they (Quezon City officials) have tackled all areas where the LGBT community may experience discrimination.”

“The Quezon City government expanded the ordinance to be the most comprehensive so far. In fact, it is more comprehensive than the anti-discrimination bill that is still pending in Congress right now,” Cendaña added.

There were more young participants in this year’s Pride celebration, which was a good indication that LGBTs are slowly becoming aware of their rights, observed Juico.

“LGBTs in Quezon City [should] take the time to find out what their rights are. The city already has an ordinance that encompasses all areas where they can experience discrimination. It is all a matter of utilizing it and making sure that it is implemented,” she explained.

Juico also said that it is the desire of Mayor Herbert Bautista to see gay union or gay marriage happen in Quezon City. Adding, Bautista also knows, “it can only happen if gay marriage becomes a national policy.”

.

.

(Founded in March 2008, VERA Files is put out by veteran journalists taking a deeper look at current issues. Vera is Latin for “true.”)

***

PhilHealth benefit package for people with HIV under review

leave a comment »

VERA Files | 01 December 2015

***

 

PhilHealth HIV - ARV Bottles

ARV Bottles

As the country commemorates World AIDS Day today (December 1), the Philippine Health Insurance Corp. (PhilHealth) is set to begin a formal review of its benefit package for people living with HIV (human immunodeficiency virus), or PLHIVs.

“We are currently reviewing the Outpatient HIV/AIDS Treatment (OHAT) Package, the implementation of it in treatment hubs, and the current rates, and if patients have questions, we can discuss it with them.  PhilHealth is going to conduct a formal review of benefits, this year up to next year, to address these issues,” Dr. Mary Antoinette Remonte, Medical Specialist II and Millennium Development Goals Benefit Products Team Head of PhilHealth, said.

PLHIVs in the country, who are members of PhilHealth, are entitled to several benefits under the OHAT Package. Every year, a member is entitled to P30,000, or P7,500 every quarter, worth of treatment, care and support (TCS) services from his chosen PhilHealth accredited treatment hub.

Also included in the OHAT Package are the following: drugs and medicines; laboratory examinations based on the specific treatment guideline, including Cluster of Differentiation 4 (CD4) level determination test, viral load (if warranted), test for monitoring antiretroviral (ARV) drug toxicity; and professional fees of providers.

Hospitalization coverage from PhilHealth ranges from P11,000-20,000, depending on the case. Any amount that will exceed the allotted budget will be charged to the patient.

DOH National Epidemiology Center

DOH National Epidemiology Center

However, PhilHealth has received  reports from several PLHIVs that the TCS services they get from their treatment hubs are different compared to other TCS providers.

“It has come to our attention that some treatment hubs charge for some laboratory tests, even after the release of the OHAT Package circular. Also, according to the guidelines set by the DOH (Department of Health), viral load testing is also covered by the OHAT Package,” Dr. Remonte said.

In the case of Paolo (not his real name), a person living with HIV  (PLHIV) from Manila who is receiving HIV TCS at San Lazaro Hospital, he was made to pay for the viral load test even if he is a PhilHealth member.

Sadly, if you are a PHLIV who had been charged for a particular TCS service, that is supposedly covered by the OHAT Package, “you cannot be reimbursed for what you spent, because the reimbursement goes directly to the facility. This is why it is important for a facility to properly maximize the reimbursement claims so they can help the patients,” Dr. Remonte added.

But the practice in other treatment hubs, like in the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine (RITM), is different. PLHIVs are able to receive free baseline laboratory tests and CD4 count.

“The OHAT Package does not cover baseline tests yet, but due to good financial management, we can provide them for free to new patients. And once they start their treatment, they would be eligible for OHAT,” Dr. Rosanna Ditangco, research chief head at RITM-ARG, explained.

For patients who are already starting their antiretroviral therapy, “we provide free CD4 and CBC tests. Yearly, during their anniversary, we provide free CD4, CBC, blood chemistry – depending on what ARV they are taking, and viral load. And if the doctor suspects treatment failure, a free viral load test will be done anytime plus HIV drug resistance testing,” Dr. Ditangco added.

That has been the system of RITM ever since PhilHealth released their OHAT Package circular.

“The HIV treatment regimen is standard for all treatment hubs, but the cost of laboratories are not the same. The practice is also different on how they utilize the PhilHealth reimbursement and this is because of administrative problems in the treatment hubs,” Dr. Remonte explained.

She also reminded PLHIVs to check if their treatment hubs were filing claims and if they find out that there were lapses, they could write a complaint, anonymously if they are worried about confidentiality.

For PLHIVs who want to avail of the benefits of the OHAT Package, they should be PhilHealth members with three to six months contributions; submit a waiver allowing PhilHealth to look in to their records; and provide a copy of their HIV confirmatory result and treatment regimen.

There are currently 22 accredited hospitals all over the country that are designated treatment hubs for PLHIVs. There are also several satellite clinics that provide TCS services for HIV management.

Like other agencies and institutions, PhilHealth is increasing its efforts to help manage the detrimental effects of HIV.

The Philippines is one of the countries where the prevalence of HIV has been increasing.

On the other hand, statistics from other countries show that HIV is already decreasing, or at zero growth.

As of August this year, there were already more than 5,000 reported HIV cases in the Philippines, according to the DOH. This number is 17% higher compared to the same period last year.

.

.

(VERA Files is put out by veteran journalists taking a deeper look at current issues. Vera is Latin for “true.”

***

PhilHealth clarifies OHAT coverage

leave a comment »

Outrage Magazine | 29 August 2015

***

 

This is a continuing story on the disparities in the services received by PLHIVs in different hubs in the Philippines, even if they are required to pay the same amount by PhilHealth.

As the Red Ribbon Project eyes to help the country get to zero (i.e. zero new HIV infection, zero AIDS-related death, and zero HIV-related discrimination), its beauty queens – Binibining ARV-Universe, Bb. ARV-World and Bb. ARV-International; joined by Miss ARG 2012 – gives the “beauty with a purpose” tagline flesh, this time by reaching out to Filipino PLHIVs in RITM.
“That there’s still something to live for,” is the goal of the outreach, said Pozzie Pinoy, who helms Red Ribbon Project – seconded by Bb. ARV-Universe, who said in the vernacular that “if we can – even for a while – shed some hope, that’s good and well.”

In the Philippines, the treatment, care and support received by most people living with HIV (PLHIVs) are covered by the Philippine Health Insurance Corporation’s (PhilHealth) Outpatient HIV/AIDS Treatment (OHAT) Package. Specifically, to those who are enrolled in PhilHealth, P30,000 is allocated per PLHIV per year, or P7,500 every quarter.

But – as stated in a previous report by Outrage Magazine – PLHIVs from different treatment hubs in the country experience different and at times confusing disparities in the services that they receive, even if they pay the same PhilHealth premium/amount of approximately P2,400 per year.

READING THROUGH

After the release of PhilHealth’s OHAT Package circular in 2010, DOH published Administrative Order No. 2010-0036 – The Aquino Health Agenda: Achieving Universal Health Care for All Filipinos – in December 2010, signed by then Health Secretary Enrique Ona.

It stated that “the Aquino Health Agenda (AHA) is a focused approach to health reform implementation in the context of HSRA (Health Sector Reform Agenda) and F1 (FOURmula One), that all Filipinos especially the poor receive the benefits of health reform.”

ARV is part of the “free” TCS services received by PLHIVs in the Philippines

Under that guideline is the attainment of health-related Millennium Development Goals (MDG), which include the reduction of HIV/AIDS prevalence.

The administrative order also mentioned that the “DOH shall develop guidelines and protocols to organize the community health team and service delivery network, implement a functional referral system, deliver health service packages, contract with private providers, implement clinical practice guidelines, generate, retain, and use hospital revenues, and establish hospital pricing system to maximize benefits from PhilHealth.”

In the 2010 OHAT Package circular, it stated that the “package shall be based on Department of Health (DOH) guidelines on anti-retroviral therapy among adults and adolescents with human immunodeficiency virus infection. All treatment hubs in accredited facilities are required to follow the guidelines set by the DOH.”

Meanwhile, the Guidelines on Antiretroviral Therapy (ART) among Adults and Adolescents with Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) Infection – DOH Administrative Order No. 2009-0006 – released in January 2009 stated that as part of monitoring the response to ART treatment, “for patients with good compliance to ART, clinical response is recommended to be used together with CD4 count and viral load determination (whenever feasible) to detect treatment failure.”

And that “treatment hubs through its HIV AIDS Core Team (HACT) shall provide treatment and clinical monitoring of patients under ART.”

ACTUAL COVERAGE

In an interview with Outrage Magazine, PhilHealth’s Medical Specialist III and Millennium Development Goals Benefit Products Team Head Dr. Mary Antoinette Remonte said that “it has come to our attention that some treatment hubs charge for some laboratory tests, even after the release of the OHAT Package circular.”

The 2010 circular only specifically stated that “covered items under this benefit are drugs and medicines, laboratory examinations including Cluster Difference 4 (CD4) level determination test and test for monitoring of anti-retroviral drugs (ARV) toxicity and professional fees of providers.” As such, Remonte said that “some treatment hubs take what was written in the circular literally.”

Remonte, however, said that if a PLHIV needs “viral load, if it’s really needed, they can still charge it on the OHAT package. Any laboratory tests related to ART treatment, they can use the OHAT Package for it.” For Remonte, “even if viral load testing was not written in the first circular, it was already included in the coverage.”

The revised OHAT Package released last June already clearly states that “covered items under this benefit are 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.”

PhilHealth also monitors the disparities among the services offered by treatment hubs, particularly on whether they are putting into effect what were stated in the circulars that were released.

“We are currently reviewing the OHAT Package, the implementation of it in treatment hubs, and the current rates; and if they have questions, we can discuss it with them,” Remonte said.

PLHIVs, meanwhile, are encouraged to contact PhilHealth if they have concerns regarding their PhilHealth membership and coverage.

PROPER MANAGEMENT

According to Dr. Rosanna Ditangco, research chief atThe Research Institute for Tropical-AIDS Research Group (RITM-ARG), a treatment hub located in Alabang, management issues also come to play in the delivery of TCS services to PLHIVs.

For instance, while “the OHAT Package does not cover baseline tests yet”, at RITM-ARG, PLHIVs are able to receive free baseline laboratory tests, such as CBC, chest x-ray, PPD and blood chemistry (i.e. lipid profile, BUN, Creatinine, FBS), and CD4 count.

“Due to good financial management, we can provide these free baseline services to new patients; and once they start treatment, they would be eligible for the OHAT Package and RITM would be able to regain the initial investment,” said Ditangco.

Older PLHIVs, meanwhile, can already use their PhilHealth membership when availing different services and laboratory tests that are needed and related to their antiretroviral therapy (ART) treatment.

There are minimum number of tests that DOH mandates for treatment hubs to give to PLHIVs, so that hubs now offer different services aside from those mandated – and even if the amount they pay to PhilHealth remain the same

There are minimum number of tests that DOH mandates for treatment hubs to give to PLHIVs, so that hubs now offer different services aside from those mandated – and even if the amount they pay to PhilHealth remain the same

“Every six months, we provide free CD4 and CBC tests. And yearly, during their anniversary, we provide free CD4, CBC, blood chemistry – depending on what ARV they are taking, and viral load tests. If the doctor suspects treatment failure, a free viral load test will be done anytime, plus HIV drug resistance testing,” Ditangco said.

Ditangco added that “all of these are covered by OHAT. And this has been our system ever since PhilHealth released their first circular.”

RITM-ARG also receives “additional support” from the DOH, which the facility also uses when providing TCS services to PLHIVs.

“Our funding is mostly from our OHAT reimbursement, but every now and then, we receive funding from DOH and we use this to provide free viral load, CD4 or HIV drug resistance testing for other treatment hubs,” Ditangco said.

WAY FORWARD

Interviewed by Outrage Magazine in Davao City during the 1st HIV Summit in southern Philippines, DOH Usec. Vicente Y. Belizario Jr. said that the DOH mandates the “minimum package (to be provided by hubs to PLHIV).” However, “(health care) is decentralized to local government units, (and) there are LGUs that are more innovative.”

“The challenge is to ensure harmonization,” Belizario said, adding that this is what the DOH “will continue to push.”

For Dr. Jose Narciso Sescon of the AIDS Society of the Philippines, “one bright move towards ensuring standardization is that these are being discussed and taken on. This is a healthy step towards a more robust HIV package of services offered to clienteles… if and only if we are all open (government and private service providers) to take on to discuss and accept the real challenges faced by our program.”

“I believe all major government treatment hubs must agree on a standardized treatment package offered to their patients that can be availed under the PhilHealth OHAT Package. Having a national standard on HIV treatment services offered to Filipino PLHIVs will help avoid confusion and unnecessary inconvenience for patients,” said Kevin Kane Li of The AIDS Treatment Action Group (TATAG) Philippines.

Meanwhile, for Pozzie Pinoy of The Project Red Ribbon, “if your hubs are charging you for your laboratory tests in succeeding tests, you should start asking.”

Pozzie Pinoy likens the PhilHealth to having an insurance package, wherein “if you have an HMO, you have packages, and you must know what’s being spent on you.”  In the case of PhilHealth, “ask your hub what in your P30,000 is being spent. You paid for it, so it should be used for you. Learn to ask. Don’t turn a blind eye just to save face. This can be solved by asking.”– WITH INTERVIEWS BY MDCTAN

PhilHealth may be reached at (+63 2) 441 7444 or (+63 2) 441 7442, or email actioncenter@philhealth.gov.ph.

Outrage Magazine is one with the PLHIV community in demanding for a uniform implementation of TCS services, particularly as mandated by PhilHealth. 

.

.

(Established in April 2007, Outrage Magazine remains the only publication exclusive for the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, questioning, intersex, asexual and allied community in the Philippines.)

***

%d bloggers like this: