HIV Thriver, Advocate Dawn Averitt on Overcoming HIV-Related Health Care Disparities

Dawn Averitt opened the session, “Refocus on HIV: How Innovation in HIV Will Address Individual Patient Needs,” on day 1 of IAS 2021, this year's virtual annual meeting of the International AIDS Society, which took place July 18-21.

The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted disparities that have been around in the HIV/AIDS space for a very long time, and the United States is uniquely positioned to learn how to improve outcomes on several fronts: health care delivery, education, and access, noted Dawn Averitt, founder, The Well Project and Women's Research Initiative on HIV/AIDS, who has been living with HIV for 33 years.

Averitt opened the session, “Refocus on HIV: How Innovation in HIV Will Address Individual Patient Needs,” on day 1 of IAS 2021, this year's virtual annual meeting of the International AIDS Society, which took place July 18-21.

Transcript

How can we start to overcome disparities within the HIV space?

Really, what COVID did for us was highlight the disparities that have been there for a very, very long time. It kind of put it in full, full blazing color for us the challenges that we have been experiencing in the HIV and AIDS pandemic, for decades now—but certainly in other health-related issues, as well. So, I think that as we kind of step into a new phase—obviously, COVID isn't over, it's not done yet, but in the United States, specifically, we are uniquely positioned to basically take a look at what we've learned in the COVID [pandemic] kind-of experiment, if you will. What does it mean when it isn't just one population, but it is, in fact, a global pandemic?

And then, how do we begin to address the disparities that we see emerge, even in a global pandemic? And that, on the global stage, is certainly by country and by geography. But then even within our country, in the United States, where everyone who wants access to a vaccine should have it by now, we still have some pretty remarkable disparities that are the classic disparities around socioeconomic status, around race, some around gender. But interestingly there's also some things that we're starting to see around education and education level and understanding around science and trust of systems. And it's not as clean as it has been in the past. And so I think that's a really great opportunity for us to kind of scroll back and say, what are we really looking at here and where there are so many places where we have an opportunity to improve: improve outcomes, improve health care delivery, improve education, improve access across the board.

Is there an ideal solution that will be able to get rid of these disparities?

Do I think that disparities will always exist on some level? Yes. I don't know that there'll be the same [disparities]. They might be different disparities. I think that's part of the human condition, sadly. I'd love to think we could evolve to a place where we didn't create that kind of haves and have-not, in-or-out kind of setting and system. But you see that even with children in a very young age.

I think that we'll always battle disparities on some level. We may not battle disparities at the level that we have all become accustomed to just accepting.