What We’re Reading: Catching up on World AIDS Day pieces by and about experts, we’re reading about the power of science, justice, and strategy

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PEPFAR, launched as an emergency response to AIDS, has built a bridge to the future – In the 15 years since a bi-partisan Congress launched the U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, the potential of what equitable access to medicine and other evidence-based prevention measures could accomplish has only become clearer. Dr. Myron S. Cohen, the author and lead investigator for the trial that proved treating HIV also prevents transmission, has since seen a mission that was founded on guesswork and faith become one of the most powerful life-saving forces in history.

Is the U.S. an appropriate place to hold an international AIDS conference? Actually, that’s not the question this piece sets out to answer. Instead, on the 30th anniversary of a day set aside to recognize the need for solidarity in confronting the global public health threat of HIV, the piece examines the ways that U.S. leadership is lagging in that regard, with neglectful and discriminatory policies that are stalling success. Written by Dr. W. David Hardy, Chair of HIVMA, (which, with IDSA, produces this blog) and a physician who has provided HIV care and conducted HIV research since the earliest years of the epidemic, the piece highlights HIV criminalization in the United States, failures to optimize proven harm reduction interventions, as well as immigration and entry bans that exacerbate risks and health service gaps. The question Dr. Hardy poses is whether, as leaders of the global response to HIV, and as Americans with an epidemic continuing to thrive on disparities at home, policymakers will seize opportunities to tear down these barriers.

Meet the radical gay doctor behind New York City’s falling HIV rate – Here’s another headline that doesn’t do justice to its subject . . . The results discussed here, as well as the doctor delivering those results (both as a moon-lighting clinician and as deputy commissioner for the Division of Disease Control at the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene) are inspiring. His strategy, of “status-neutral care,”  the same approach to initial patient care regardless of one’s HIV status, however, is staggering in its simplicity, and its potential to change public health responses, particularly to stigmatized illnesses and conditions.

The Big Sleep – A friend sent this, included here because it shows, vividly, what conviction, compassion and determination can accomplish. “If you were going to try to stamp out a lethal disease, you wouldn’t want to be doing it here. Yet that is what’s happening. In DRC, a country tarnished in international eyes by war and violence, Congolese doctors are finally winning the battle with sleeping sickness, a disease of west and central Africa that became an epidemic thanks partly to the enforced displacement of peoples and poverty caused by the policies of invading European colonialists.”

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