Just last week, President Rodrigo Duterte signed a law that seeks to strengthen the Philippine Government’s response to the growing number of HIV-AIDS cases in the country. A much needed and positive step forward, but while the Philippine government is making life-saving treatment accessible to people living with HIV regardless of their level of income, there are still Filipinos that do not know their HIV status and even more worrying, those that have been diagnosed with HIV that do not seek treatment because of the fear associated with HIV-related stigma or the cost of the treatment itself.
According to the Philippine AIDS Council, in 2018, as many as 32 Filipinos were being diagnosed daily with HIV/AIDS. The World Health Organisation recently declared that the Philippines is experiencing the fastest-growing HIV epidemic in the Asia-Pacific region with 79% of those diagnosed with HIV in the Philippines being between the ages of 15 and 34 – from the younger, millennial generation and in the most productive years of their lives.
It was against these worrying, escalating trends that back in 2016, CareJet took the decision to partner with Sustained Health Initiatives of the Philippines (SHIP) in order to support the HIV response in the Philippines by improving the accessibility of life-saving treatment.
One of the reasons we chose to partner with SHIP is the unique model that they use. The anti-retroviral drugs and laboratory services are provided free-of-charge by the Philippine General Hospital and most importantly, patients are seen by an infectious disease specialist in a private clinic, by appointment, where their privacy and confidentiality can be assured.
Clearly, this is so important when we consider the ages and backgrounds of some of those affected. In the Philippines, most HIV clinics operate based on a drop-in model and it is very difficult to maintain a patient’s privacy operating in that way. Whilst private hospitals can be far more discreet, the cost is sadly beyond the reach of many of those affected.
Unfortunately, one of the issues that the SHIP was experiencing with their model was that it required significant resources to operate in this way. Some of the concerns raised by the clinic’s patients were that it could be difficult to reach the clinic to make inquiries and as clinic staff was unreachable outside of clinic hours it affected their ability to book appointments.
When we heard about the challenges that SHIP was facing, the management team at CareJet met with the clinic’s Medical Director and proposed to take over the management of SHIP’s telephone hotline, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, with full call center functionality, free of charge.
After a series of training sessions with the CareJet Team focusing on the type of patient queries they would be receiving, our case specialists, who already had extensive experience dealing with confidentiality and medical appointments, took over call management. A shared scheduling system was also developed so that clinic staff and CareJet specialists could view and update the clinic schedule in real-time.
Our collaboration with SHIP has been in operation for over 2 years now and has been a significant success, making a huge impact on over 800 HIV patients that have been seen at the clinic. It has improved the ability of SHIP’s patients to be able to contact the clinic and has helped mitigate the risk of treatment interruption, which is critical to the success of HIV treatment.
CareJet’s relationship with SHIP has led to other projects with us providing consulting and advisory services to assist SHIP in becoming a fully autonomous HIV treatment hub, independent from the Philippine General Hospital.
We’re really excited to share that our collaboration with SHIP was recognized at the end of October in the International Assistance Group (IAG) Awards where CareJet were announced as the winners in the ‘Corporate Social Responsibility’ category of the IAG Awards 2018.
The IAG Awards recognize high-quality performance in the assistance field, excellence in product developments, creative campaigns, and innovative solutions in the assistance field.
It was an absolute pleasure for me to travel to the IAG Awards Ceremony in Lyon, France to collect the award on behalf of our amazing team at CareJet and our wonderful colleagues at SHIP and we look forward to continuing our collaboration and hopefully making a positive impact in the future on the HIV response in the Philippines.
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