COVID-19 can be a mortal threat to those with compromised or weakened immune systems, including those with HIV (particularly those with detectable viral loads). The number of individuals with the virus continues to dramatically increase each day. Southern AIDS Coalition (SAC) has requested that all Southern governors enact a temporary statewide shelter in place mandate. SAC believes that these temporary measures will be in the best interest of the public’s health.
“We applaud Governor John Bel Edwards of Louisiana as well as many mayors throughout the South who have made this very tough decision to activate the statewide shelter-in-place mandates. This preventive measure will save lives, especially those who are most medically or socially fragile. These mandates are especially important given our reality that: (1) We do not have access to the number of tests needed to fully understand the epidemiological impact of COVID-19; (2) We have a severe lack of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE); and (3) We do not want to crash our overburdened and fragile hospital systems,” said Derick B. Wilson, Executive Director, Southern AIDS Coalition.
The South has the highest number of HIV diagnoses in the nation. If exposed to COVID-19, individuals with this diagnosis have a high risk of death. Unfortunately, in many rural areas, many have inadequate and limited healthcare. According to the Cecil G. Sheps Center for Health Services Research, 119 rural hospitals have closed since 2010. Texas leads with 20 rural hospital closures followed by Tennessee, which has seen 13 hospitals close. The lack of access to healthcare, medical mistrust and misinformation will exacerbate this pandemic within the Southern region.
SAC has much experience combatting HIV and other health disparities. The nonprofit organization is willing to partner with Southern state and local health departments in any capacity to ensure that COVID-19 is defeated.
“Public health strategies are effective when we are proactive, grounded and committed to working collaboratively. We are willing to assist with strategizing around overcoming challenges related to testing, community impact, prevention supplies and treatment needs of people impacted by COVID-19 throughout the South,” said Wilson.
About the Southern AIDS Coalition: The Southern AIDS Coalition (SAC) is a non-partisan coalition of government, community, and business leaders working alongside thousands of people living with HIV and our allies to end the HIV epidemic in the South. We do this through public health advocacy; capacity-building assistance; PLHIV leadership development; research and evaluation; and strategic grant making. To learn more or to join us, visit www.southernaidscoalition.org.