Barriers to ending the HIV epidemic are true not only for Atlanta, but on a global scale. Atlanta is a part of a global community, where today, more than 2,000 people will die from AIDS-related illnesses. Renewed U.S. leadership in the fight against HIV/AIDS globally is our best strategy for ending this epidemic for good.
Beyond HIV, pandemics due to tuberculosis and malaria surge on and the next infectious disease pandemic looms around the corner with ongoing outbreaks around world, such as Ebola. The United States is not insulated from readily transmissible infectious disease outbreaks, no matter where they occur, as evidenced by Ebola and Middle Eastern Respiratory Virus (MERS) entering the U.S. in 2014.
At tonight’s debate, I call on all candidates to commit to a bold global initiative to halt today’s pandemic killers of AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria and prevent current outbreaks from becoming tomorrow’s pandemics. I join many other scientists, doctors, health and environmental activists, and faith groups around the country in this call to the candidates: commit to ending the pandemics of AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria around the world — including here in Atlanta — by doubling U.S. investment in a transformative whole-of-government effort to both end these pandemics and ensure low- and middle-income countries can detect diseases and advance the health of their people before outbreaks become pandemics. Protecting American lives depends on lifting up the health of the most vulnerable, globally, through strategic investments in health workforce, infrastructure, laboratories, and data systems.
Fighting HIV and other infectious diseases in Atlanta and globally is not only a public health imperative but fundamentally an issue of equality and human rights. Pandemics thrive on and drive inequality and injustice. LGBTQ people, people of color, the poor, migrants, women, and young people bear the biggest burden.
In our globally connected world, efforts to end these pandemics are more important than ever. Atlantans have seen the impact of HIV locally when a proactive approach is not taken. Tonight’s debate is the right time for candidates to commit to ending these pandemics here and around the world.
Dr. Jonathan Colasanti is an assistant professor of medicine at Emory University and associate medical director, Infectious Disease Program, Grady Health System.