HIV, Tony Young, Ben Steele discussed on Short Wave

Short Wave


The following message comes from NPR sponsor REI. Chief customer officer Ben Steele shares the importance of engaging their co op community to make positive change in the outdoors. REI can not single handedly solve issues like sustainability, like climate change, like equity and participation in the outdoors. But if you think about the ripple effect of what millions of people can do together, what's possible starts to get pretty exciting pretty fast. To learn more, go to REI dot com slash better is out there. Stephanie Brooks Wiggins is 76 years old, she lives in Baltimore, she was diagnosed with HIV in 1986. Back then, there were no tools to help her. There was no treatment. There were no drugs. Dude, go to the clinic and the psychiatrist would talk to you to keep you from going off the deep end. Over the decades, scientists developed many HIV treatments and they got better and easier to take. She says, but HIV has not ended in the U.S. as these tools became available. A stubbornly high number, more than 30,000 people are diagnosed with HIV every year, only 25% of people who might be eligible actually take a preventive pill called prep, and even with accurate and at home options for testing, over a 150,000 people in the U.S. are HIV positive, but don't know it. Scientific discoveries are a necessary but not sufficient factor to completely eradicate disease. That's doctor adora, a physician and professor at the university of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. She first started treating people with HIV in the 1980s. She says the tools to combat HIV have come a long way. There are now topical gels and easy to take pills and even injections. I don't know that I ever greeted any of these new advances saying this is the thing that's going to end HIV. That's because she's seen the barriers to access and implementation, she says, barriers like the high cost of prescription drugs and the maddening patchwork healthcare system. The barriers to COVID's tools like tests and vaccines and Therapeutics have been different. But a Tony young says there are parallels and common mistakes. She lives in West Virginia and runs the community education group, which does public health outreach. We keep doing the same thing over and over and over again. Saying, it's over there. Why don't you go get it? That attitude hasn't worked to fight HIV or COVID young says. It doesn't work for people who don't have access to healthcare who don't trust the medical system or who don't think they're at risk. As she sees it when it comes to the COVID-19 pandemic, the country has missed out on the chance to make the most of the vaccine by failing to understand and work with people in all their complexity. It was all or nothing approach. You're either with me on this vaccine or you're not. You're either on my side or you're my interview when it comes to the vaccine. You're either a vaccine, denier or you're a vaccine, get it. And there's a whole lot of room between those two. The frame of us versus them is implicit in a lot of the rhetoric these days about getting back to normal. It's in terms like pandemic of the unvaccinated and telling people they've done the right thing by getting vaccinated and should therefore have special privileges like not being punished with things like indoor masking and testing requirements. That way of talking about public health, so Steven thrasher creates the conditions for pandemics to last longer. Thrasher is a Professor of journalism at northwestern and author of the forthcoming book the viral underclass with HIV in the mid 1990s when treatments became much more effective. People who got access to the drugs began to pull away and take their political capital and go home because they didn't need to be in the fight anymore. And the virus continued to pool and what I call a viral underclass in the United States. This was a sad and lethal mistake in the fight against HIV. He says, and now it's happening again. The lack of political will in Congress to pass more COVID-19 funding is a perfect example, he says, and those still at particular risk are those who are warehoused away out of sight. People who are in nursing homes as elderly people or who are in convalescent centers as disabled people and of course people who are incarcerated, they're already out of public view and people are not listening to them. Those settings can act as epidemic engines he explains. People visit their loved ones in these places, staff come and go back into the community, and so the pandemic drags on and lives are needlessly lost. He is disappointed that policymakers seem to be centering the people who have the most access to tools to protect themselves, not the least. I really hoped that that would be different this time. This is not to say no one is trying to get the available tools out to people who don't have as much power and access, a Tony young in West Virginia has one idea for how to do it. We want to hit people in the face with the COVID vaccination because we're in the middle of the pandemic. But maybe I got a slow walk you do that COVID vaccination. Here's how that might go. If you got 5 kids and y'all are hungry, you need to figure out where you're going to get food from. You don't care about my vaccine. Let me help you. What do you need from me? If I can get you the food that you need, when we do the follow-up, hey, did the food voucher work out for you? Great. Can we talk to you now about, again, about the COVID vaccine? Her organization has a $3.5 million cooperative agreement with CDC to use this approach to vaccinate people against COVID-19 and influenza in West Virginia. Young hope CDC will continue funding this for three years so they can expand. She also hopes to spread one of the lessons from HIV that people and their relationship to health is complicated and the public health response needs to be ready to meet them where they are. Selena, thank you so much for that reporting. So we just heard about the effort in West Virginia hoping for more money. Where are things with the bigger picture of pandemic funding? I know Congress got close to a deal back in April. Yeah, exactly. Well, we're recording this on Tuesday, may 3rd, and currently there is not a whole lot going on. The White House has been asking for more than $20 billion of pandemic funding. When Congress got close to a funding deal back in April, it was for less than half of that. And what that means is that uninsured people currently do not have free access to testing or vaccines or treatment, the funding for that program has run out and it's not clear if it would even start up again if the congressional funding did come through. And that's why so many people are pointing out that there are now these new kinds of haves and have nots in terms of access to protection from this pandemic, and that's concerning. And Regina, before we go, I want to return back to Dr. Laura Cheever, the HIV Doctor Who runs the national Ryan white program. Yeah, the official who was so optimistic about the initiative to end the HIV epidemic. Yeah, exactly. I'm guessing a.

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