Information for Providers Assisting HIV Patients Returning to Panama

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What's Available in Panama

Panama's public health system offers HIV treatment to people diagnosed with HIV through its public hospitals and social security system. Panama does not offer all antiretroviral medications for cost reasons. HIV health care and services may is free of charge; there are private clinics providing ARV treatment for those that can afford the cost. HIV prevention programs and services are provided by non-governmental organizations.

HIV Treatment in Panama

Panama has the Policentros de Salud and specialized clinics under the Department of Health and the Social Security Fund (Caja de Seguro Social). There are 13 antiretroviral (ARV) clinics in the country under the Department of Health, one in each region, including one in the indigenous region of Kuna Yala and the indigenous region of Ngäbe Buglé. Panama City, the capital, has 4 HIV clinics.

HIV Legislation

A law protecting the rights of people living with HIV in Panama was enacted in 2000 (Law No. 3 of 5 January 2000).

HIV Diagnosis, Referral, and Follow-Up

Once a patient is diagnosed with HIV (by a private clinic that provides HIV testing, HIV service organization, public clinic, or hospital), the patient is referred to an infectious disease doctor from an ARV clinic in the region. The doctor performs an evaluation and orders CD4 and viral load tests to assess whether the patient should start therapy. Panama's treatment guidelines state that treatment should be started if the CD4 count is ˂200 cells and the viral load is >5,000 copies/mL.

Cost of Services

New patients are assigned a social worker who helps to determine eligibility for public assistance, based on the patient's income. In many cases, the patient does not have to pay, and in most instances, treatment is covered by the clinics in the public health system.

What Patients Will Need

In order to accelerate the process and avoid out-of-pocket costs for laboratory tests, patients should be encouraged to have the following:

  • A 3-month supply of their current HIV medications, if available
  • A recent CD4 T-cell count (available upon doctor’s request)
  • A recent viral load test result (available upon doctor’s request)
  • A copy of their medical chart, including complete antiretroviral treatment history

Connecting to Care in Panama

  • National Program for HIV/AIDS and STIs of the Ministry of Health (Programa Nacional de ITS/VIH Y SIDA del Ministerio de Salud) www.minsa.gob.pa for general information. (Spanish)
  • Gorgas Memorial Institute for Health Studies (Instituto Conmemorativo Gorgas de Estudios de la Salud [ICGES]) http://www.gorgas.gob.pa/ (Spanish)
  • Aid for Aids Panamá https://aidforaids.org/es/panama-2/ (Spanish)
  • Aid for Aids Panama, Comprehensive Care Center for Children and Adolescents with HIV or AIDS (Aid for Aids Panamá, Centro de Atención Integral para Niños, Niñas y Adolescentes con VIH o Sida) -  (507) 512-9834 (Spanish).
  • Foundation for the Welfare and Dignity of Persons with HIV/AIDS (Fundación Pro Bienestar y Dignidad de las Personas con VIH/Sida [PROBIDSIDA]) www.probidsida.org (Spanish)
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