MANILA, Philippines – The Philippine Health Insurance Corp. (PhilHealth) will provide additional financial support to its members and their dependents who have human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), should they acquire tuberculosis and other ailments.
PhilHealth president and chief executive officer Dr. Eduardo Banzon reminded its members about the benefit package in time for the observance of World AIDS Day on December 1. Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS), PhilHealth said, is a cause of concern as cases are fast rising in the country.
"We will pay simultaneously for the anti-retroviral therapy as well as TB treatment of HIV-positive members and dependents. If they are hospitalized due to any other secondary illnesses, they will also be provided the regular inpatient benefits," Banzon said.
"Owing to their impaired immune system, Filipinos living with HIV are extremely vulnerable to TB. Their bodies are unable to stop the TB bacteria from reproducing.”
At present, Philhealth's outpatient HIV/AIDS treatment (OHAT) package pays P30,000 every year, or P7,500 per quarter, for the anti-retroviral therapy of members and dependents living with HIV.
Banzon said those availing of the OHAT may concurrently benefit from Philhealth's directly observed therapy short course (DOTS) for TB package.
In DOTS, the patient gets uninterrupted supply of anti-TB drugs. Either a family member or a health worker supervises the patient's medicine intake, and treatment outcome is monitored.
PhilHealth will pay for the entire six-month treatment, including the diagnostic work-up, consultation services and drugs provided upon enrollment in the DOTS.
In 2011, Philhealth paid for the DOTS of some 11,000 TB patients.
The Philippines is one of only seven countries in the world struggling with rapidly increasing new HIV infections.
While the spread of HIV has slowed in many parts of the world, it has been growing at an alarming rate in the Philippines, Armenia, Bangladesh, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, and Tajikistan, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).
Up to 46,000 Filipinos could be diagnosed with HIV by 2015, unless the spread of the highly contagious disease is effectively checked, the Philippine National AIDS Council has warned.
As to TB, even without the HIV/AIDS factor, the bacterial disease that usually attacks the lungs is already the sixth leading cause of illness and death in the country, claiming the lives of 75 Filipinos every day.
The Philippines ranks seventh worldwide in TB incidence, after India, China, South Africa, Indonesia, Pakistan, and Bangladesh, according to the latest WHO Report on Global TB Control.