The 20th international AIDS conference is underway in Melbourne, Australia. Once again global leaders, researchers, scientists, health care professionals, and advocates gather together to discuss the latest affairs in the HIV/AIDS global climate. Perspectives will be shared depicting where we are today in the continued siege of HIV/AIDS hoping that one day soon the personified virus will waive its white flag and resist no more. Excitedly waiting for reports back from the conference, I did a quick Google search for “HIV blogs” and found an endless laundry list of posts capturing different social and cultural facets of public health concerns. Continue reading
A tale of two “public health” Cities in response to AIDS
Let us start with the conclusion in terms of reaching a world without AIDS: science must intersect with and be married to social justice. The two worlds of public health science and community response need to be synchronized and interdependent.
Today we attended the New York Academy of Science event titled: Science, Community and Policy for Key Vulnerable Populations. The event was co-sponsored by UNAIDS right as the United Nations’ Open Working Group sessions on sustainable development goals are being pondered and debated. AIDS remains a global issue and as such continues to impact disproportionately vulnerable populations. Specifically, at the event it was posited that there are three epidemics: young girls, injection drug users in eastern Europe, and gay men world wide. Most likely it is children and gay men (men who have sex with men-MSM) who are not accessing treatment. Discriminatory legislation, for example, in Nigeria creates an unsafe environment in which gay men don’t dare get care. As a matter of fact, there are 82 countries have penalized MSM activity. There is a need to make these epidemics a “mainstream issue.”
As part of the opening remarks, Dr. Luiz Loures noted we are entering a new phase and there is a need for new partnerships. He was in New York at the very beginning of the epidemic where he saw his first AIDS case in 1982. He made an effort to understand the social aspects of AIDS at the time. He was in tune with the men in the community to give him a very different perspective from that of being a critical care doctor. What was astounding at that moment in time was that the people affected by the disease took on the reins in responding to AIDS. Such a community ownership of a disease was unprecedented at that time. However, as the epidemic took hold there was a need for more than a scientific and community on-the-ground response. UN Secretary General Kofi Annan established the global fund in the ’90s. Today we are spending 17 billion a year globally.
We are now entering fourth phase, per Dr. Loures. He noted that we are entering the “post science phase” where we can take this epidemic to the end. It is not the virus anymore that is holding us back. We now know how to respond.
The main aspect that differentiates this phase is a particularly acute challenge. We face the fact that the likelihood of accessing treatment, prevention technologies and knowledge is not the same for everybody. If you live in the Russian Federation, for example, there is a higher likelihood you won’t access treatment if you are an injecting drug user.
This new phase pushes us forward in thinking about social justice in more depth and more nuance. Science must not only focus on which biomedical advances work but science must investigate the what, who, when and why of our three global epidemics. Science, broadly and dynamically speaking, must help us understand why people are left behind. We need to more specifically understand who is vulnerable. We must ask ourselves what more can we do and what are the points for action? We have to find a way to make research understandable and relatable. The when is now. It is not so much about scaling up our efforts, although its still an issue, considering that 15 million people will be on treatment by 2015, but the need is 30 million. The fundamental point is to understand who is not getting treatment, where they are, why are they not getting treatment and what we can do.
We pose to you, dear reader, how can science help us bring people into care and reach equity? How do we get past the tale of two cities wherein community and science don’t walk hand-in-hand?
As Dr. Chris Beyrer noted “when HIV is anywhere, HIV is everywhere.” There are no neighborhood, city, state or country borders when it comes to HIV.
Inspired by this new phase in the fight against HIV and a need to consider geographies as well as the daily prompt.
Post and photo by
Miriam Y. Vega, Ph.D @miriamyvega
Emily Klukas, MPH @em_klukas
We have posted our 100th blog article and we want to take a moment to thank all of our followers! The Institute for Hispanic Health Equity has been blogging for the past year with the intention of raising awareness and discussion on bridging the gap in health disparities throughout the United States and Puerto Rico. A big thank you to all our readers and followers for helping us spread the word!
In case you missed them, here are the top ten most popular articles as of today:
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Please scroll bellow and take a look at what our followers are saying too…
A few questions for this sunny Thursday morning:
1. How many times in the last week have you heard the news, your boss, our president, your partner, or your kid’s teacher talk about how things have to change and we have to take action?
2. How many times to do you agree?
3. How many times to you know HOW to make the change?
If you are like most people, you have a high number for question 1, lower for question 2, and even lower for question 3. It is undeniable that we are confronted with pressure to change from all directions these days. In the workplace, we talk about “change management” and “change leadership,” and this is especially true in the health field. We can’t even talk about the field without talking about change. As such, many our leaders are (or should be) taking a step back and refreshing our strategies for making the large-scale changes that are required of the Affordable Care Act. This is no simple change that we are looking at. Many of us at community based organizations have to look at the core of who we are – our mission, our name, our clients – to figure out how to move forward in the coming years. This is a transformational change. As stated by Dean Anderson and Linda Ackerman Anderson of Being First, Inc:
“Transformation demands a shift in human awareness that completely alters the way the organization and its people see the world, customers, work and themselves” Continue reading
Our days are made up of random pieces… Sometimes they fit together smoothly, sometimes you need to apply some extra pressure and other times they simply are not a match. Not everyone has access to all of the same pieces but we all get the chance to try and build the puzzle of life.
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