Wattana Keiangpa, APCOM
Everyone know me as ‘A’ and I have been working with APCOM for seven years now, previous to that I was working for the Poz Home Center, a PLHIV organization working with men who have sex with men and transgender people.
I have been living with HIV for over 10 years, and have been on TDF 3TC EFV for 5 years or so. In April 2020, my CD4 count is 770 and viral load is under 40 copies/ml.
Prior to the Thai government partial lockdown on 22 March, and State of Emergency Decree on 26 March, I get my ARV from a hospital that I can easily get to, close to the Bangkok Skytrain and with social security the services and the ARVs are free for me. I usually don’t spend too long at the hospital to pick up my ARVs, every 3 months I go there, and consult with the doctor for about 5-10 mins and then pick up my pills, and every 6 months I do general health checks. CD4 count is done twice a year, and viral load once a year. I only need to pay for my transportation to the hospital, and drinks and snacks there.
It was the time for me to visit the hospital for my quarterly appointment during the lockdown period. I feel very lucky that I am still able to access my ARV during this time, and had expected some disruptions which made me nervous. I found that the hospital had been well organized to meet the requirements of COVID-19, from hand sanitisers, masks, and social distancing. I was on time for my appointment, saw the doctor which took the usual 5-10 mins, until the time for collection of the ARV.
When I went to collect my pills the department was very crowded with a long queue. I had to wait for two hours to collect my pills, and was very concerned about social distancing not being observed due to the number of people waiting to collect their medicines. I made a written complaint to ensure that the hospital can manage this section better, and didn’t want any other patient or person to be put at risk in this way, whether here or at another hospital. The hospitals are clearly doing well to manage the COVID-19 situation, but there are opportunities for improvement, and we can help together.
My story is that I am lucky. We hear stories of friends who are having issues with ARV access during lockdowns for example, they are stuck in a different province and cannot go and pick up their pills. Some hospitals do offer ARV through the post but the on-line registration can be complicated and some worry about getting asked why they are getting a package from the hospital if they have not disclosed their status to whoever they are locked down with.
Should anything go wrong with my ARV collection, I have a spare bottle of ARVs that I purchased at a private clinic for THB 1,300 (30 pills, about USD 40), just in case as my next appointment to the hospital is the very day that I need to go to the hospital pick up my ARV.