Monday, July 11, 2011

Good News, Bad News

My Doctor and partner tried to comfort me, " Huy, okay lang yan, hindi naman CD4 lang basis ng improvement ng health mo."

A few weeks ago, I had my third CD4 test, but this time, not at RITM anymore but at San Lazaro. It was a different experience, in sense that we were like Team PGH in there! I even got to see and chat with an old friend, but that's another story. Normally, at the Hills, it is a quiet passage. You get there, get a form, blood extraction, you leave. But this time around, uh oh, ten people all waiting in an area the size of your bedroom. Awkward.

Last time, I had a 100+ CD4 jump so I was expecting I was gonna be somewhere around thatagain. My doctor had to literally pick my jaw up from the floor when I found out my count dropped by 80 points. Seriously, with a capital S? 

So the doctor explained that CD4 is usually the indicator in the PH, as this is cheaper than a viral load. To the uninitiated, a CD4 test counts how many soldiers you have, and a viral load, how many enemies. So latter should be lower, former should be higher. 

You are entitled to a free viral loaf after a year in ARVs. So I can get one for free now. However, it will be at San Lazaro again. And I would have to go by their schedule again. Beggars cannot choose. Ugh, I hate it! And its location was far more inconvenient.

And then Hallelujah, as if the heaven parted and angels began flying around, playing harps. My doctor said, "You can have it here at PGH."

I asked how much.

"Four thousand eight hundred."

Now, that's more than a $100. A one way ticket to Thailand. Or three nights  worth of stay in a two star Bangkok hotel. Or a roundtrip kontrata taxi ride to the Cambodian border from Silom.

Took me five seconds. San Lazaro, though free, is again, too inconvenient for me. I am paying for convenience here. I am paying for peace of mind. But most of all, I am paying for special treatment, because my test was on the day after my appointment with the doctor, at 8am. They were gonna start the viral load screeningat 9am so I had to make it before the cutoff.

The viral load test, the one that counts how many enemies I have, was actually done in the UP Manila campus, in an old building. I was there half an hour earlier. They took my blood. No lines, no waiting. Less than five minutes after my appointment, I was on my way home.

So that's where my money actually went. Not having to wait like when I waited at San Lazaro. Apparently, the institute that will process the viral load is not yet accredited with Philhealth. Thus, the cash out.

Two weeks went by. I was packing for my trip (see previous entry)  when I got doctora's text.


It was a real case of good news, bad news. I have come across similar stories. Now, I cannot help but wonder, what if I didn't have the resorces for all of these inconvenience. I still consider myself lucky, to be all healthy and all fit to work. Besides, I couldn't really stop. I am getting impatient waiting for the cure. But in the meantime, all I could do was hang on.


  1. i wasnt informed that we'll be getting a free viral load, i thought we oughta pay 6k to have that performed. is that depend in what hiv center youre from? 2nd quest is do u think PGH is better than San Lazaro. im contemplating on transferring there (PGH). i dont want RITM--way too far from where i live!

  2. I had my VL done in PGH and i paid almost 5K. I dunno what the free tests are now. Ask your center. On which one is better, I have been to San Lazaro for a CD 4 test. It was a little too far for me and depressing. PGH is a lot more convenient. And what I love about PGH is the accessibility of doctors. I have my own doctor who is genuinely concerned about me and who I can contact anytime.

  3. huh?! im confused, didnt u mention that were allowed to have a free viral load once a year: "You are entitled to a free viral loaf after a year in ARVs. So I can get one for free now. However, it will be at San Lazaro again."

  4. As of A few months ago, I know VL should be free but it's done in San Lazaro or RITM. I opted to have it done in PGH for convenience so I had to pay. Apparently, PGH tests at that time are not covered.

    The coverage for free meds and tests have changed due to the global fund and Philhealth is I think trying to cover as much as they can. You should check with your center which is covered, as this changes from time to time. Also, better to have your Philhealth docs ready like MDR and certificate of contributions.