Firstly, I'd like to think that persons living with HIV (PLHIVs) like me truly appreciate your gesture of taking care of/subsidizing the cost of antiretrovirals (ARVs) that many of us take and of certain laboratory tests that we need to undergo relative to our medical condition, especially with the approaching termination of the Global Fund's financing of the same by December 2012. It would be of great help to us - financially, that is.
But I have some gripes with the way your office is treating us PLHIVs, who do not deserve to be burdened with certain requirements and procedures that would only stress us out a lot. Do know that stress and/or depression is not good for those like me.
You have required PLHIVS still not taking ARVs to pay for the CD4 count, for example. Whether or not, they have Philhealth. A CD4 count in a certain treatment hub costs P3,000! That amount is too heavy for someone who is earning just the minimum wage or barely reaching minimum wage. What if a PLHIV cannot afford to take that count or some other lab tests because of lack of funds? He or she will never know the current status of his or her immuno-compromised health unless he or she undergoes the regular physical exams and lab tests.
Another predicament that PLHIVs face is having to ask our human resources (HR), administrative heads, or managers to sign the CF1 form, which we need to submit every time we get ARVs or every three months. The most common questions asked of us who ask our employers or company officers to sign the documents are: what is this for and why do we need to sign it? We are a loss on how to explain it. We cannot tell them we have HIV, right? Or that we need this document for our HIV treatment.
I have learned that doctors of designated treatment hubs and representatives of PLHIV groups have met Philhealth officers and asked if your office can accept payslips instead of the CF1 because of the difficulty faced by PLHIVs in having it signed. The payslips would show that the employed is a regular contributor to Philhealth anyway. But your office have reportedly turned down the suggestion saying that payslips can be faked. But your office can check with where the PLHIV is working to determine if he or she is indeed employed there as suggested also but your office said that it would entail lots of work and would be an additional burden on your part.
We have the option though to tell our company that we will personally take over paying our contributions directly to Philhealth in order to evade questions on the signing of the CF1 forms but that would be tedious for PLHIVs, knowing how slow procedures are when it comes to government office transactions.
So we PLHIVs have no choice but to submit the CF1 form, along with the MDR every three months, and face the scrutiny of our employers, even the risk of not having our CF1 forms signed unless we can adequately explain why and for what reason is it being submitted for their signature.
I wish your office can make it things easier for us PLHIVs. We already have this medical condition. It was a lapse in our personal judgment by not adhering to safe sex that is why we contracted HIV, but do we have to be "punished" like this by your office?
I hope more consideration would be given to us because the bottom-line here is: lives are at stake.
R10-AAC of RITM/"Aries"