Thursday, January 15, 2009

COLOMBIA: Most vulnerable fall through gaps in health system

via PlusNews

HIV prevalence among Colombia's general population has stayed below 1 percent, but the limited data available suggests that concentrated epidemics are occurring among certain high-risk groups such as men who have sex with men (MSM) and sex workers. People displaced by the country's armed conflict are also thought to be at greater risk of HIV infection.

When Martin Alonso Hernandez, an AIDS activist in Bogota, Colombia's capital, learned that his partner of six years was HIV positive, he waited another five years before getting himself tested for the virus.

"I was out of the social security system," he explained. "It was very expensive to test otherwise."

Hernandez's partner did have health insurance through his job, but was fired when his status was discovered. He lost his health benefits and fell into a deep depression, Hernandez told IRIN/PlusNews, eventually dying in 1999.

By the time Hernandez accessed Colombia's state-regulated health insurance system and tested for HIV in 2001, he had a number of AIDS-related symptoms and weighed just 32kg. "I was quite sure of the result," he said. "I just wanted the piece of paper so I could access treatment."

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