Expert: Health Care Disparities Show ‘Commonalities Between HIV and COVID-19’ in BIPOC Communities

Russell Brewer, DrPH, a research associate professor at University of Chicago Medicine, discusses the lessons from both the HIV epidemic and the COVID-19 pandemic in regard to how health systems can more effectively address health care disparities in BIPOC communities.

Pharmacy Times® interviewed Russell Brewer, DrPH, a research associate professor at University of Chicago Medicine, and P.J. Moton-Poole, a senior manager at ViiV Healthcare, on the expansion of ViiV Healthcare’s accelerate initiative, which funds projects that support the health and wellbeing of Black same-gender-loving men throughout the United States. Specifically, the expansion of the initiative focuses on disrupting disparities in care for Black same-gender-loving men living with HIV.

Alana Hippensteele: Russell, are there any lessons that you hope may come out of both the HIV epidemic and the COVID-19 pandemic in regard to health systems learning how to more effectively address disparities in the public health space for BIPOC communities?

Russell Brewer: Yeah, I think there already are some lessons. Organizations providing HIV services have integrated COVID-19 services to include education, testing, and vaccinations. These HIV service organization serve an important and frontline role in reaching vulnerable clients or patients.

So, they've begun to consider, “How do we reach our clients or patients in this new normal? Do we employ telemedicine or other virtual approaches? How do we provide HIV testing or other forms of prevention? Do we implement at home testing, for example? How do we maintain connections to reduce social isolation experienced by our patients or clients?” Maybe they've started using online support groups.

But I think there are also some commonalities between HIV and COVID-19, and I go back to this again, going beyond medicine to connect the dots: What are those underlying conditions that impact health? Whether it's someone's income, whether it's their housing status, whether they have health insurance or not, or experiences of discrimination, because all of these things impact health. We see commonalities between HIV and COVID-19 as we look at these 2 conditions.