2. Incentivizing pharma innovation strengthens the health care system In Uganda, the expanded clinical infrastructure enabled community health workers to deliver care outside the scope of PEPFAR. People had greater access to mental and maternal health services. The construction of roads and other bread-and-butter infrastructure, meanwhile, granted rural communities a chance to address social determinants of health. Without antiretroviral drugs, HIV/AIDS would have remained a more destructive force. Back in the 1980s, the US government began working with pharma companies to develop the medications, a process that remains in place today. (We’ve also seen how quickly incentives led to vaccines during the COVID-19 pandemic.)
With PEPFAR came the resources to build the infrastructure necessary to combat HIV/AIDS. That meant health care clinics stocked with medical equipment such as centrifuges, but also basic improvements. Workers constructed roads through which people could access the facility, while electricity and clean water upgrades kept the clinic running. 1. The benefits of health care infrastructure outlast any single crisis
Roads don’t disappear when crises dwindle. The impacts last. How are the HIV/AIDS epidemic and the push for health equity related? The past offers several lessons to health care and policy leaders who aspire to reduce health disparities today.
I understand why many people are skeptical of whether a divided nation can come together to solve big challenges, like health disparities. It’s tempting to only see our differences. The push for health equity requires structural changes to how we engage patients, measure success, and pay for this work. No single party or community can make that happen on its own. 4. Stories stoke compassion, and that can change minds and policy As chair of the international subcommittee for President George W. Bush’s council on HIV/AIDS, I attended a meeting at the White House that would still turn heads. The room was split between LGBTQ+ activists and evangelical Christians, 2 groups whose policy objectives often clash. In this case, however, everyone aspired to 1 goal: reduce the effects of HIV/AIDS and help underserved communities throughout the world survive the epidemic.
3. Big goals require coalition building Pharma gets a lot of heat, some of it deserved, for high drug prices. However, collaboration between the industry and the government advanced innovation and saved lives. Imagine how we could use this model going forward, either for the next health crisis or to better address disparities that exist today.
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