The COVID pandemic has highlighted existing public health problems founded in inequitable access to quality health care. A larger audience is now aware of the impact on different communities and their ability to navigate health challenges. COVID has also demonstrated science in real time, as scientists and public health professionals scramble for solutions. Westat’s Asking the Experts Webinar Series wanted to dig deep on the parallels and lessons from the effort to end HIV in the U.S. In our first conversation, Ending HIV in the U.S.: Progress, Challenges, and Opportunities on Thursday, December 2, 2021, we heard from researchers and community leaders with their perspectives on turning challenges into successes.
Belinda Gaston, MPH, of Westat’s Public Health & Epidemiology Practice, moderated the panel, which included the following experts:
- Cristian J. Chandler, PhD, MPH, Assistant Professor, Department of Medicine, Division of Infectious Disease, Vanderbilt University
- Tori Cooper, Community Engagement for the Transgender Justice Initiative, Human Rights Campaign
- Leisha McKinley-Beach, MPH, MS, Founder and CEO, Cush Health Impact and Leisha.org
- Carlos Rodriguez-Diaz, PhD, MPHE, MCHES, Department of Prevention and Community Health, George Washington University
The discussion was wide ranging, including the panelists’ take on what progress and challenges have arisen in the fight to end HIV since the beginning of the pandemic and what essential changes they believe still need to be made. Takeaways include:
- Greater engagement between communities and researchers is critical. Barriers to established communication should be broken down. Science needs to listen to communities, get their perspectives, and community leaders need a stronger presence in informing who, where, and how to reach these communities.
- Lived experiences need to be shared, bringing experiences and actionable information to researchers in ways that are unparalleled in any other approach.
- Use science better to translate discoveries into services and interventions.
- Lessons learned need to be documented to fight pseudoscience that pervades the internet, social media, and other communication vehicles.
“We are thrilled to have had the opportunity to engage with these experts in conjunction with World AIDS Day and on such important questions,” notes Ms. Gaston. “From the chat comments that came in during the event it was obvious that our audience was inspired and excited to apply some of the ideas our panelists discussed.”
See the full webinar and enjoy the exchange of ideas and perspectives of the panelists: Ending HIV in the U.S. in the Age of COVID (YouTube Video)
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