As we celebrate Black History Month 2021, we must reflect on the turbulent, sobering events that have taken place in this country since last February. The murder of George Floyd in May 2020, on the heels of the killing of Breonna Taylor, reinvigorated the Black Lives Matter movement all over the world, with millions of people of all races taking to the streets to protest police violence and systemic racism and to show support for racial equality and justice.
More recently, the response by law enforcement to the January 6 attacks on our nation’s capital stood in stark contrast to the senseless, government-sanctioned acts of violence against people of color in their own homes, while running or walking in their neighborhoods, when organizing to make their voices heard, or when protesting peacefully.
However, there is also cause for celebration of two history-making events: first, when the Reverend Raphael Warnock became the first Black person elected to the U.S. Senate from the state of Georgia, largely the result of strong voter registration efforts in Black communities; and second, when Kamala Harris was sworn in as the first woman of color to become the Vice President of the United States.
We are hopeful that the next four years will advance policies that move us closer to equity and justice for all Americans, including a coordinated federal plan to end the COVID-19 pandemic that makes an effective vaccine available and equitably distributed.
COVID-19 and New York’s Plan to End the HIV Epidemic
The COVID-19 pandemic has shone a harsh light on health disparities, especially for communities of color. These disparities exist because communities of color experience serious structural barriers to accessing quality, affordable health care, including discrimination and higher rates of poverty. As noted in Amida Care’s recent report A Pandemic + an Epidemic: COVID-19’s Impact on New York’s Plan to End the HIV Epidemic, Black people represent 28% of COVID-related deaths in NYC, although they account for only 22% of the city’s population. Black people are also eight times more likely to be diagnosed with HIV and nine times more likely to die of AIDS than the general population.
Before COVID-19, New York was close to becoming the first state in the nation to end the HIV epidemic. Despite the devastating effects of the coronavirus pandemic on our health care system, we must not lose ground in the treatment and prevention of HIV; we have an opportunity to learn from this crisis and refocus efforts to achieve our goal of ending the HIV epidemic in New York and across the U.S. Working together, government agencies, health plans, providers, and individuals can help achieve an HIV-free future.
Uniting Together to Create Lasting Change
Going forward, one thing is clear: we must continue to work together to fight systemic racism and socio-economic inequality in the United States and in the world. To quote Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.”
Amida Care has always believed strongly in this “network of mutuality,” and we are proud to do our part to advance racial and socioeconomic equity and inclusion. Each day, we recommit to our work to dismantle systemic racism and injustice in health care and beyond.