Disparities & Inequalities in Ending the HIV Epidemic: Treatment of HIV

Editor’s NoteMaeleigh Tidd delivers another thought-provoking post in our Pharmaceutical Inequalities series. She reaches back to the 1980s to consider how ACT UP protests led to greater affordability of HIV drugs, and argues that the persisting structural inequalities must be addressed by EHEI.


In 1987, six-years into the rampant spread of the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) and progression of acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS) leading to 40,000 deaths in the U.S., the FDA approved the first known antiviral drug for the treatment of AIDS. The approval of AZT (zidovudine) was the first scientific breakthrough in treating, and potentially ending, this “death sentence” of a disease. Yet, as the only treatment option available to the growing number of vulnerable and dying individuals with HIV/AIDS, it was outrageously unaffordable with a price tag of over $10,000 per year. 

This drug profiting and the overall poor response to the epidemic at hand, led to the formation of the non-partisan group Aids Coalition to Unleash Power (ACT UP), a group of LGBTQ+ activists ‘united in anger and committed to direct action to end the AIDS crisis’.

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Disparities & Inequalities in Ending the HIV Epidemic: Pre-exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP)

Editor’s Note: This post by Maeleigh Tidd is the second in our Pharmaceutical Inequalities series. She explores the recent Ending the HIV Epidemic Initiative in the US, with a particular focus on prevention strategies, specifically PrEP, that are being implemented to assist in ending the epidemic.

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9/11 and Drug History:
An Interview with Dr. Samuel R. Friedman

Editor’s Note: This post is by Points Managing Editor Emerita Emily Dufton. She holds a PhD in American Studies from George Washington University and is the author of Grass Roots: The Rise and Fall and Rise of Marijuana in America. Email Emily at emily.dufton@gmail.com and follow her on Twitter @emily_dufton. Welcome back, Emily!

On the morning of September 11, 2001, recent health problems forced Dr. Samuel R. Friedman to get a blood test before going to work. That meant he didn’t catch the train from New Brunswick to New York until a little before 9 am. The hour-long PATH train would normally let him out right under the World Trade Center, where his suite of offices took up the South Tower’s entire sixteenth floor. Friedman was a senior fellow at the NDRI—the National Development and Research Institutes, formerly the Narcotic and Drug Research Institutes—and he was going to be late that day, but not too late.

But the train didn’t make it to Port Authority. As it drew into the Newark station, the conductor announced that all passengers would be taken to Penn Station instead, at no extra charge. Friedman, who had been commuting for years, knew all about the city’s problems with public transportation. “‘Ok,’ I said to myself, ‘that happens sometimes.’”

But when they pulled away from Newark, Friedman knew something else was wrong. “The track goes up and then goes down so you’ve got a good view of New York City,” he said. “You could always see the Trade Center.”

“We noticed that the North Tower was smoking like hell, it was on fire. And we go along a few miles later and we see there’s smoke coming out of the South Tower too.”

It was 2001, Friedman said; fewer people had cell phones then. But as they sat on the train, word spread. Something happened. A plane hit a building. The World Trade Center. Something’s going on.

“And so I get into Penn Station,” Friedman remembered. “And I’m able to get a payphone–they had them then. My first connection is home, where I leave a message saying I’m fine, I’m going to get the next train home. I then call the office to say, in case there’s anyone there, get the fuck out.”

But no one answered that phone. It rang in the emptying tower.

9-11 Friedman Social Card

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Witness Seminar: HIV/AIDS Prison Policy in England and Wales, 1980s-1990s

Editor’s Note: Recently Drs. Janet Weston and (current ADHS president) Virginia Berridge hosted a witness seminar, a method of oral history collection through group recollections, on the development of prison policy regarding HIV/AIDS since the early 1980s at LSHTM’S Centre for History in Public Health. Below is a more thorough description of the event that may be of interest Points readers. Contact Dr. Weston for more information at janet.weston@lshtm.ac.uk.

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The seminar in progress

As part of the Prisoners, Medical Care, and Entitlement to Health project, we organised a witness seminar in May 2017 as an opportunity for key individuals to discuss their experiences and memories of the development of prison policy around HIV/AIDS.

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