HIV, Regina Barber, Selena Simmons Duffin discussed on Short Wave
Shortwave. From NPR. Hey shirt waivers, it's Regina barber here today with Selena Simmons duffin, health policy correspondent. Hey Regina, so I am here because as the COVID-19 pandemic has worn on, I keep hearing a certain refrain and I'm sure you've heard it too. We have the tools. We have the tools and prototypes we have the tools we need to protect. We have the tools. And my tools I'm assuming they mean they're a vaccines at home tests and masks, treatment, all in ample supply. Right, exactly. So the funny thing is, when I started hearing this refrain from the Biden administration, I thought, I have heard that before, and to be specific, I heard it in 2019. We have the tools, this is an historic opportunity. That is Alex azar, he was then the health secretary in the Trump administration, and the tools he's referring to are the ones that exist to end the HIV epidemic. Oh. So president Trump mentioned this initiative to end the HIV epidemic in his 2019 State of the Union speech and I got interested in what this was about and how it would work and I started doing follow-up reporting. Wow, that's really interesting. Who'd you meet? Well, one of the people I met was Dr. Laura Cheever. She runs the national Ryan white program at the federal health resources and services administration, and that program provides free HIV treatment to low income people. Awesome. She is also an HIV Doctor Who's worked in Baltimore for decades, and when I talk to her, she was really upbeat about this new funding. It's helped us with community. It's helped us with local government. It's helped us within the federal government to really come together differently. So we do really do have different momentum here. So you can hear her optimism, right? It seemed like the goal to end the HIV epidemic in the U.S. by 2030 could actually happen. That's so exciting. So what prompted this big announcement, like what changed? Yeah, the answer is not a whole lot actually had changed, like there wasn't a new tool or a new something that made it suddenly possible. These tools had existed for a while and the HIV epidemic hadn't gone anywhere. So it wasn't just that science needed to develop tools like fast and accurate HIV tests and effective treatments is that it takes a lot of organizing and momentum to marshal these tools to achieve something as challenging as halting the spread of a virus. So in other words, it sounds like having the tools isn't enough. Exactly. You also need the political will and funding.