While the disease is on the decline in most states, the devastation of the coronavirus pandemic is still reverberating in the Black community. Recently reported evidence that President Donald Trump knew more about the dangers of the disease weeks before the first confirmed U.S. case makes it even more disheartening knowing the number of people who perished from COVID-19. Fears have yet to subside and the Black community continues to look for credible information on how to best protect and manage this health crisis, particularly as we head towards the fall, more relaxed practices and flu season.
One of the most vulnerable communities who must take proper precautions are those who are deemed Immunocompromised with weaker immune systems caused by cancer, diabetes, or HIV/AIDS. This is why the Black AIDS Institute (BAI) invited Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), to participate in a virtual roundtable discussion about the enormous impact the disease has had on those individuals, debunking many of the false narratives that have been passed along.
As part of their “The Blacker The Plan: Our People. Our Problem. Our Solution” speaker series, Fauci provided a better understanding of how COVID-19 is transmitted, the reason for contact tracing and continued testing, and why the Black community needs to be a part of the vaccine trials and future therapies.
“Dr. Fauci has given countless interviews but none of those interviews dived into the needs specifically for Black people and for people living with HIV,” said Black Aids Institute President and CEO Raniyah Copeland.
“We’ve been responding to HIV for decades and that experience is invaluable as we respond to this new epidemic, COVID, in Black communities. We wanted to highlight what we know is critical to responding to viral epidemics in Black communities with the latest information from the nation’s leading infectious disease expert. We wanted a conversation for us and by us with the most relevant and accurate science-based information.”
Copeland, along with Grazell Howard (BAI Board Chair), Jesse Milan (BAI Board Chair Emeritus & AIDS United CEO) and Marlene McNeese (BAI Board Member & Assistant Director, Division of Disease Prevention & Control, Houston Health Department), who are also Black public health experts themselves, wasted no time before asking Fauci to explain why and how this disease attacked the Black community so swiftly and strongly.
Fauci calls it a “double whammy,” revealing that it’s mostly the underlying health issues (diabetes, heart disease, obesity, etc.) that Black people were already disproportionately suffering from prior to the pandemic as well as a lack of access to proper health care that ultimately cause such high levels of infections in that population. However, those who are identified as HIV-positive actually are not a part of the group considered to be most at risk.
“The issue with HIV infections is complicated because if you look at the conditions definitely it’s a higher risk for severe outcome. HIV is not considered in that,” explained Fauci. “HIV is considered in the group that it may be associated with severe outcome and the reason is there is such a spectrum of persons living with HIV.”
Needless to say, there are still many people who remain concerned about being exposed to the coronavirus and equally concerned about the potential vaccines in development. Copeland knows that the Black community will be leery, but encourages people to do their homework and get as much information as possible.
“There must be community and advocacy engagement at every step of the process,” said Copeland. “Ensuring that people who have the least have all the information to make an informed decision is a critical part of a process deemed ‘informed consent’. The concept of ‘informed consent’ means that people who participate in clinical trials and people who elect to utilize a vaccine or new medications must understand all the details of what they are electing to participate in and what medication they agree to take. For Black communities, the process of informed consent must begin by having conversations about what has happened in the past, what is happening now, and what processes are in place so that we as Black people can decide what we want to do. “
Watch the full video below: