Colombian Health Insurers Refused To Provide HIV/AIDS Related-Services

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Although the Colombian government mandates that private health companies provide essential services, including those related to HIV/AIDS treatment, care and prevention, many have refused to do so, and critics of the country's national health insurance system argue there is no incentive for the companies to promote HIV testing, IRIN/PlusNews reports.

Ricardo Garcia, UNAIDS country coordinator, said that private companies receive federal funding for HIV prevention but that they are not "using it to actually do interventions." There is no national HIV prevention strategy or budget in place to target high-risk groups -- such as men who have sex with men, commercial sex workers and displaced people -- whose risk for HIV is increasing, IRIN/PlusNews reports. Ricardo Luque, who advises the Public Health Directorate on sexual and reproductive health issues, said that more resources for a national strategy are needed and that the country has applied for a grant from the Global Fund To Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria to target high-risk groups.

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According to the grant proposal, 14% of Colombia's population is uninsured, despite the country's health insurance system that requires workers to pay into a state-administered fund to cover health costs. An additional smaller salary deduction is used to pay for services for the unemployed through a social security fund. Those who are not covered by the system should be able to access services directly from the state, but Luque said each of the country's 32 regional departments determines its own spending priorities.

Despite this policy, Garcia said that HIV-positive people often are refused treatment and forced to take legal action against health companies. In addition, the quality of services provided to HIV-positive people is inconsistent, Garcia said, adding that UNAIDS has had "complaints" of antiretroviral treatments being interrupted after three to four months because of "bad supply management."

According to UNAIDS estimates, about 170,000 people in Colombia are living with HIV/AIDS. Luque added that 18,000 HIV-positive people in the country currently have access to treatment (IRIN/PlusNews, 1/12).

Reprinted with permission from kaisernetwork.org. You can view the entire Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, search the archives, and sign up for email delivery at kaisernetwork.org/email . The Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report is published for kaisernetwork.org, a free service of The Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation. © 2007 Advisory Board Company and Kaiser Family Foundation. All rights reserved.

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