Jobless HIV-positive man without benefits denied healthcare in Ibiza

"I'm afraid of suddenly needing assistance and finding myself destitute"

A year ago Íñigo López, 40, was diagnosed with HIV. His defenses were still not low enough to require medication, doctors told him. But he does need regular follow-ups and many tests.

On Thursday, during one of his visits to the local health center in Ibiza, where he lives, the Balearic Islands public health service informed him that he was only entitled to emergency care. López, who has been out of a job for over a year, no longer gets unemployment checks and thus had lost his right to free healthcare.

A month ago, López applied for a new health card. Regional authorities have not replied yet, not even to tell him whether he has the right to health assistance for people without means, which is contemplated by law. Meanwhile, he is being denied doctor's appointments and medical tests.

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"I'm scared of suddenly needing assistance and finding myself destitute," he laments.

A spokesperson for the public health service denied the possibility of such a case happening: "If he is registered on the local census and he is not a displaced person, he must be given access."

A native of the Basque Country who used to live in Madrid and moved to the island of Ibiza a few months ago, López decided to register on the local census specifically to be able to see the local doctors more easily.

"I cannot afford to take a plane every other day to Madrid, where I used to live. I can't do it for financial reasons, and I can't do it for health reasons as well," says López, who worked for years as a clinical supervisor.

On Monday of this week, López was denied a medical test that had been prescribed. When he complained to the patient care service, he was told that as a person without financial resources, he was entitled to free healthcare, and that they would themselves contact his local center to ensure they tested him.

"I went back, I talked to the doctor, who saw me without making any objections, I got my tests done and they told me to come back for the results," says López. But when he tried to get an appointment for further testing, local personnel insisted that he was only entitled to emergency care - and wrote so in large red letters in his application form for a new card.

"What about the tests I need? I'm scared I might need to get started on treatment and that they won't pay for it. I need it to live, and I cannot afford the 500 euros a month it can cost," he says.

His is not a unique situation. Nor does it happen exclusively in the Balearic Islands. Around 200,000 people in Spain remain without public health care: unemployed individuals who are no longer eligible for checks, people who never contributed to social security and members of professional associations.

This will all change on January 1, when the Public Health Law makes universal health care a reality. Until then, legal loopholes and the crisis are causing a proliferation of cases like López's.

On Friday, the Balearic health commissioner, Carmen Castro, said that López would receive the healthcare he needed, "just like any other Spanish citizen."

Street protests against social service cuts in Palma de Mallorca.
Street protests against social service cuts in Palma de Mallorca.ALONSO M. GAMERO (EFE)
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