COVID-19: Gobbling Up Funding for Fatal Epidemics Such as Malaria, TB and AIDS

Coronavirus or Malaria, Tuberculosis and HIV?

Al Jazeera (2020)

Film Review

Why is a Low Mortality Illness Like COVID-19 Crowding out Treatment for the World’s Most Dangerous Illnesses?

This documentary reports on urgent concerns that COVID 19 “pandemic” management is crowding out prevention, diagnosis and treatment for far more serious illnesses, such as malaria, tuberculosis and AIDS.

Epidemiologists assert that low cost interventions such as bednets and “residual spraying” (presumably with insecticides?) are extremely effective in preventing malaria in African and Asian countries that experience malaria epidemics during the rainy season. Where the disease is diagnosed early, artemisinin-based combination therapy (ACT) has an extremely high response rate. Unfortunately due to diversion of Red Cross and other international funding to COVID management,  Africa’s anti-malaria programs have suffered significantly. India, however, is still making good progress in reducing disease prevalence.

Diagnosis and treatment of tuberculosis has been similarly affected in the developing world, where, at present approximately 25% of patients diagnosed with HIV are unable to access life-saving anti-retroviral treatment.

 

Successful Mass Protest During Repression

United in Anger: A History of ACT-UP

Directed by Jim Hubbard (2012)

Film Review

This documentary traces the history of ACT-UP (AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power), one of the few successful mass protest organizations during the repressive Reagan era. Between 1981, when the AIDS epidemic was first recognized, and 1987, 40,000 Americans died of AIDS. During this time Reagan refused to utter the word AIDS, much less advocate for research, prevention and treatment. Prior to 1987, 80% of patients diagnosed with AIDS would be dead in two years.

ACT-UP first formed in New York City in 1987, the same year the first anti-AIDS drug AZT became available. By 1996, the year the life-saving Triple Cocktail* became available, they had 147 chapters across the US.

The film mainly focuses on the New York City chapter, and their Monday night meetings attended by hundreds of activists. Most former ACT-UP members believe the secret of their success decentralized (non-hierarchical) organizing. This fostered the burgeoning of dozens of affinity groups based on the needs of specific AIDS patients (women, minorities, low income).

The ACT-UP Women’s Caucus was one of the more important affinity groups, as the CDC was stubbornly resistant to the reality that AIDS was the number one killer of American women. Because the disease presents differently in women (eg with a a high incidence of cervical cancer), the initial CDC diagnostic criteria made it impossible for female AIDS patients to qualify for Social Security Disability or Medicaid. This not only left them penniless and homeless as the disease progressed but denied them access to America’s for-profit health system

In 1987, ACT-UP held their first protest at the Burroughs-Wellcome Tuckahoe (New York) research facility to protest the prohibitive prize of AZT ($10,000 per year).

Over the years, the organization held a number of creative protest actions, most involving civil disobedience:

1988 – Unfurled banners on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange to protest AZT’s  high cost.

1988 – Made the front page news for “taking over” the FDA to demand more rapid approval of drugs for AIDS treatment.

1989 – Joined with other social justice groups for a City Hall protest against Mayor Ed Kochs failure to fully fund low income housing and hospitals (many AIDS patients were dying in hospital corridors.

1989 – Joined with Women’s Health Network for a 7,000+ protest at St Patrick’s Cathedral (with hundred protestors “dying in” inside the sanctuary) to protest the Catholic Church opposition to safe sex, condoms, and abortion.

1990-94 – Commenced four-year campaign to pressure CDC to include women with AIDS in their diagnostic criteria to include women with AIDS.

1990 – Protest to force National Institutes of Health (NIH) to include patients in designing clinical trails

1991 – Camera bombed Dan Rather’s CBS network news yelling “Fight AIDS not Arabs) the day the US declared war on Iraq (picked up by all major US news outlets).

1995 – Blocked Midtown Tunnel to protest city/state service cuts

 

 

 

 

Granny Fight Club: Elderly Kenyan Women Learn to Fight Off Rapists

Granny Fight Club

RT (2017)

Film Review

Granny Fight Club is an RT documentary about the self defense program in Korogocho Kenya that teaches elderly women to fend off prospective rapists.

The deliberate rape of elderly women is an increasing problem in Kenyan slums – largely due to the prevailing myth that raping a grandmother will cure a younger man of AIDS.

The women are taught a strategy that relies mainly on self-confidence and a loud aggressive voice. However they also practice delivering blows to vulnerable areas of a man’s body.

Invisible No Longer: Chicago’s Homeless

Street Life: Faces Uncovered

By Neal Karski, George Min, Tyler Dubiak and Scott Hilburn (2016)

Film Review

Street Life is a portrait of the Chicago’s homeless population. It begins by demolishing the myth that homelessness is a lifestyle choice. In addition to a wealth of statistics, the documentary includes interviews with homeless Chicagoans, social service workers, homeless advocates and random passersby. I found it intriguing that none of the women interviewed blamed the homeless for their predicament – while more than half the men did.

On any given night 750,000 Americans are homeless, and yearly 25-35 million spend some nights on the streets or in shelters. Worldwide 100 million people have no housing at all while one billion have grossly inadequate housing. Last year, over a million American children were homeless at some point.

In examining the causes of chronic homelessness, filmmakers identified the following breakdown (in Chicago):

  • 48% suffer from chronic drug or alcohol addiction
  • 32% are mentally ill
  • 25% are victims of domestic violence
  • 15% are unemployed veterans
  • 4% have HIV or AIDS

Because the homeless make huge demands on the public health system, it costs taxpayers far less to pay for their housing than to leave them on the street. After starting a Permanent Supportive Housing program two years ago, Illinois lawmakers reduced emergency room visits by 40%, nursing home days by 975%, inpatient days by 83% and psychiatric services by 66%.