Last month, I had the pleasure of being interviewed by Lizzy Ghedi-Ehrlich of the Scholars Strategy Network for their No Jargon podcast. The podcast “presents weekly interviews with America’s top researchers on the politics, policy problems, and social issues facing the nation.” In our talk, we discussed all things safety nets, specifically my thoughts on the inequalities that drive the HIV epidemic and the safety net that was created to mitigate those injuries of inequality. Relevant to today’s public health crisis, I also shared my thoughts on how we should be thinking about the inequalities that are playing out in the COVID-19 pandemic.

Here are a few snippets from the podcast, the full version of which is linked below:

  • Injuries of inequality, such as an HIV diagnosis, are produced at “the structural level, at the institutional level, at the individual interpersonal level,” where “people, systems, and institutions” often fail those who are most vulnerable.
  • For those living with HIV, the HIV safety net provides access to healthcare services, economic support, social support, and political and civic engagement, all of which enable individuals to remake their lives.
  • “HIV is an epidemic of intersectional inequality. Meaning that people who are marginalized on the basis of their sexuality, and race, and class, and other statuses that are marginalized in our society and are discriminated against in our society are more likely to find themselves living with HIV. Now, why is that given that anyone can acquire HIV? The reality is that while we can all acquire HIV, we don’t all have an equal level of tools and resources to protect ourselves from harm.”
  • How is the coronavirus impacting those living with HIV? “For people living with HIV, it’s really important that we keep their viral loads down. The way we do that is taking medications, but there’s a lot that goes along with that,” including access to physicians and pharmacies, as well as social support systems that combat isolation.
  • “Because COVID-19 is an infectious disease, it travels across networks. We know that Black people are a population that has a huge amount of socioeconomic diversity within its community. Even if someone is middle class, they are more likely to have family members who are low income than whites, for example. So, the notion that once COVID enters a community–even if you have some resources to protect yourself, you’re more likely to have a family member who is not in that situation, a neighbor who is not in that situation, and you’re more likely to live in a neighborhood with a higher concentration of people who have a more compromised ability to protect themselves from harm.”