This letter is circulating and it has been sent to me twice today. It’s from the blogger Pozzie Pinoy and it’s a letter to Dr. Ona of the Department of Health (DOH) to address the delays in the anti-retroviral treatment (ART), which is necessary for the HIV community to stay healthy.
In fact, early treatment with anti-retroviral therapy and medicine has been attributed to lower infection rates and severely cutting down the rate of infection of several countries. People Living with HIV on ART have decreased chances of infecting others and the earlier they start on ART means better chances for them to take control of their lives.
But, if I’m not mistaken, there is still a standing order to not start ART until the CD4 of the Person Living with HIV is less than 350, which is counter-productive, especially when the numbers have reached a staggering 585 new infections in the month of July alone. We are almost numbering 20,000 people living with HIV.
ART is essential and highly important in the management of HIV in the country and to promoting better health to the HIV community. Until there’s a cure, it’s non-negotiable, as I see it.
And then I read this letter:
I’ve actually heard reports about the delay in ART distribution and this is just unacceptable. There was a period where I was receiving my medicine in smaller number which meant more trips to the clinic.
And is this true? That the Bureau of Customs is charging five million in taxes for this medicine? Importation documents? I don’t understand all of this and I don’t know if that is really taxable, but considering how EVERYTHING is being taxed nowadays and since most of the money doesn’t even go to where they are supposed to go (bogus NGOs anybody?), I find it hard to believe that the government can’t make an exception for this for the HIV community.
This is a matter of life and death for a lot of people and the delays of this medicine is really aggravating an already serious situation.
I have, on many occasions, spoke well about the DOH in their efforts to curb the rise of HIV infections. I always said that the DOH has a lot on their plate — dengue, malaria, tuberculosis, and whatever other disease is rampant these days — that I can understand why they have not given as much focus to HIV as they should be. But I’m not going to go easy on them anymore.
The HIV situation in the country is getting worse and the horrible truth of this is that we have been saying this for a long, long time now. I remember saying this back in 2009 when the numbers have come up to 80 new infections a month. It is now 2014 and the numbers of new infections a month has risen to over 300.
When ART is essential and very important in both the day-to-day quality of life for a person living with HIV and for curbing the rise of HIV infections, I don’t see why the DOH is sitting on their asses and not doing what needs to be done to get the medicine out of the Bureau of Customs’ warehouses and into the distribution lines in the clinics.
When I found out I was HIV positive in 2008, there were only less than 4,000 people who have tested positive. It is now 2014 and there are almost 20,000 people. The number has increased five times over in less than six years! I take back everything that I have said before: the DOH isn’t doing all that they can do to stop the rise of HIV.
If anyone has any way to contact prominent members of the DOH, please get them this letter. Get this letter to Dr. Ona and get him to respond. He doesn’t even have to say anything. He just has to get the ART into the hands of the people who need it.
Because the situation is worse than severe and, really, there’s more being done in the private level and the NGO level than there is in the government sector.
It’s as if they don’t really care or understand the situation and how dire it is.