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The Mis-education of HIV/AIDS Clinicians

Dear Diary,

A recent article in one of the country's leading newspapers, aptly titled 'How Private Hospitals Fleece You', lifted the lid on the exorbitant costs charged to medical aid members at private health facilities, but failed to address the pains of patients without those benefits.

With public healthcare in the country about as useful as a chocolate teapot, I find myself in the same predicament as many South Africans too afraid to subject themselves to the affordable yet appalling health services offered at government sites.

While only anecdotal evidence exists that staff at public facilities are not properly trained, the horror stories about botched operations, misdiagnosis and incorrect drug prescriptions are enough to steer anyone to private healthcare.

But are we really getting our money's worth from 'better-equipped' private medical facilities? I think not - as was the case when the high cost of my monthly anti-AIDS drugs was recently reduced from US $137 to just $69 by a programme my doctor had failed to mention.

The "Antiretroviral Access Programme", run by multinational pharmaceutical company GlaxoSmithKline, supplies AIDS drugs at half the price charged by pharmacies, provided the recipients are seeing doctors who are members of the South African HIV Clinician's Society.

Glaxo's programme also offers the added convenience of a courier service for people concerned with confidentiality and disclosure.

After almost two years I stumbled upon the programme by pure luck, having repeatedly raised the costs of my drugs, consultation fees and biannual CD4 tests with my doctor.

I contacted the HIV Clinician's Society, and was informed that all member doctors were encouraged to recommend the Glaxo service, but nothing was said about penalising physicians who failed to promote it.

Despite being a member of the society, my doctor had referred me to a "friend's" pharmacy, in the belief that I would get the best discount on my drugs - close to US $173 at the time - if I mentioned his name.

Perhaps President Thabo Mbeki's recent observation that private doctors were doing little for the advancement of the national AIDS drug rollout wasn't far off the mark; maybe it really is about getting rich quick, and "you scratch my back - I'll scratch yours".

While no figures are available on how many cash-paying patients go through private facilities, I would be remiss not to mention South Africa's large number of refugees and illegal immigrants, who are sidelined by HIV/AIDS treatment programmes, for obvious reasons, and forced into the waiting rooms of private doctors.

Melita Sunjic, a spokeswoman for the office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, commented: "Refugees are regarded with suspicion ... and barely integrated into society, let alone HIV and AIDS initiatives."

An estimated 100,000 people in South Africa have refugee status, but the Human Rights Commission believes the number of illegal immigrants runs into millions.

Even after living with HIV/AIDS for more than six years, and being on drug therapy for almost two years, my education in all things AIDS-related is an ongoing process.

I've since requested a list of registered doctors from the HIV Clinician's society, so that I will feel confident my health is just as important to my new doctor as the money I pay him for a prolonged life.

Hopefully this month's drug tenders, awarded by the government to seven pharmaceutical companies for the supply of affordable anti-AIDS drugs through public treatment sites, will put an end to what has become blatant profiteering at the expense of the millions of people struggling to cope with the HIV/AIDS pandemic.

Forever positive,

Hayden Horner

Previous Entry :: All Diary Entries :: Next Entry
Diary Entries
Antiretrovirals - The Wind Beneath My Wings
The Mis-education of HIV/AIDS Clinicians
HIV Prevention 101: Ignoring the Church's views on condoms
Stigma and HIV/AIDS: lethal bedfellows
In remembrance of our women and children
Maids, madams and the "terrible thing"
Internet love and inter-related HIV-prejudice
Previously eyes-wide-shut on HIV and religion
Love, lies and disclosure
Black pot and blacker kettle
Things better left unsaid on the bus
Food for thought while waiting to die
Test results not all good
Diary speaks back
The truth about disclosure
Dangerous myths and damaged angels
Not the final countdown
Sticks and stones may break my bones

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