We Can’t Forget Women as We Tell The Story of COVID-19Roundup
tags: AIDS, public health, womens history, HIV
Jennifer Brier is the project director of History Moves at the University of Illinois at Chicago. She is building a multimedia living women’s history of HIV/AIDS in the United States. She is a 2019-2020 Public Voices Fellow.
As the coronavirus spreads, all eyes are on the actions and recommendations of the Coronavirus Task Force, led by Vice President Michael Pence. He has relied on the experiences and expertise of two doctors, Dr. Anthony Fauci and Dr. Deborah Brix, both of whom have responded to public health crises before. Since the 1980s, Fauci figured prominently in debates about how best to respond to the HIV/AIDS epidemic, and Brix led President Obama’s response to the global HIV/AIDS pandemic. Their careers remind us that the history of HIV/AIDS matters today.
But, it is not just their experiences that should inform our response today. Women who have been medical (and political) subjects of HIV/AIDS also have much to teach us during our current pandemic. Historically, women have been at the forefront of fighting to keep communities and families healthy. This is particularly true for the HIV/AIDS epidemic, where pregnant women were among the first people living with HIV/AIDS who took drug regimens to prevent the spread of the virus. Women also insisted that medical care, and state assistance, needed be delivered consistently to men and women.
Re-centering our history of HIV/AIDS is crucial to understanding the disease—and how we will hopefully end the epidemic. Just as importantly, women living with HIV/AIDS have initiated public health efforts to promote care and treatment for all people living with the virus, providing road maps to making a healthier society where pandemics are addressed as they emerge.
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