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World AIDS Day underscores the issue of access to COVID-19 vaccines

Expert: ‘We should look to AIDS history to make sure that coronavirus treatment doesn't similarly allow death and suffering to continue’

EVANSTON, Ill. --- With the Centers for Disease Control poised to issue recommendations on who should get access to the limited supply of COVID-19 vaccines, World AIDS Day is a reminder that disparity continues to undermine global response to myriad pandemics, said Northwestern University professor Steven Thrasher.

Steven Thrasher is a faculty member in Northwestern’s Institute for Sexual and Gender Minority Health and Wellbeing (ISGMH) and the Daniel H. Renberg Chair of social justice in reporting. His areas of expertise include U.S. Civil Rights, international histories of LGBTQ and gender identities, social movements, public health reporting and HIV/AIDS history. Thrasher forthcoming book, The Viral Underclass: How Racism, Ableism and Capitalism Plague Humans on the Margins, addresses disparity and the worsening of viral rates in marginalized communities that still do not have access HIV drugs. He can be reached at steven.thrasher@northwestern.edu

Quote from Professor Thrasher
“World AIDS Day 2020 is a good time to slow down and consider that coronavirus is just one of about twenty pandemics humans are currently experiencing.” 

The UN estimates that nearly 700,000 people died of AIDS in 2019, and while that staggeringly high number represents an overall decline, it could go up in 2020. The coronavirus pandemic is interrupting needed supplies and logistics for managing HIV globally. Indeed, HIV and SARS-CoV-2 represent just two of about twenty pandemics that the world is currently facing. On World AIDS Day, it's a good time to think about how there has been good medication to address HIV for nearly 25 years, but the deaths go on because of a lack of access to the drugs, and because of structural issues like homelessness and poverty. As we hope for news any day now of coronavirus vaccines being rolled out, we should look to AIDS history to make sure that coronavirus treatment doesn't similarly allow death and suffering to continue.”