What Happens When Inequality and Disease Collide

It is really concerning that it has taken 40 years to get to about 700,000 AIDS deaths in the United States but in less than two years, we have surpassed that number. We are already at about 800,000 COVID-19 deaths. It’s a very different story when you look at it globally. We are at about five million COVID deaths globally, which is much, much less than the 35 million to 40 million AIDS deaths that happened globally. So it is really concerning to think about why the U.S. is such an outlier here and also to think about how can we as a society mourn and effectively think about the people we have lost and deal with our own grief when we are dealing with such an incredible scale of grief in such a little time.

If you follow the colonial roots of the United States and England and the Global North, you will find enormous disparities around any kind of health thing, particularly around viruses, between the Global North and the Global South. With HIV and AIDS, we first noticed it here in the United States in 1981 and we had a pretty big head start. HIV is a relatively slowly-moving virus within humans. It can take ten to 15 years before someone passes away from it, so we have time. The United States had a lot of time once we got the medication in the mid 1990s to deal with it effectively, to make it so that AIDS deaths never needed to happen again. But those drugs took another seven, eight years to even begin to enter into countries like South Africa, so their death rates continued to spiral and spiral for many years beyond that.

— source democracynow.org | Dec 01, 2021

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Why COVID Deaths Have Surpassed AIDS Deaths in the U.S.

In late October, the United States passed a grim milestone: more people in the United States had died of COVID-19 in less than two years than the approximately 700,000 who have died in the U.S. in the four decades of the AIDS pandemic.

By World AIDS Day, this gap has grown. Nearly 800,000 people are known to have died of COVID-19. If current trends continue—and they don’t have to—hundreds of thousands of people could die of COVID in the U.S. in 2022, while perhaps 15,000 people living with HIV may die next year of any cause.

These dire numbers are worth comparing and considering, with a few caveats.

First, judging deaths in bulk numbers flattens what is actually happening. It is hard to do justice to the more than 100,000 people in the U.S who died by drug overdose last year (a 30 percent increase from the previous year) and the hundreds of thousands who have died from HIV and SARS-CoV-2. Every person who has died in these pandemics is worthy of being known as they lived and loved in their time on this earth.

Also, we will never truly know precisely how many people have died of AIDS or from COVID.

And yet, this milestone is important in its scale. I have known so many people for decades who have lost and mourned loved ones to AIDS; I have seen quite intimately the toll

— source scientificamerican.com | Steven W. Thrasher | Dec 1, 2021

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US drug overdose deaths surged to 100,000

More than 100,000 people died of drug overdoses in the United States during the 12-month period ending April 2021, according to new provisional data published Wednesday by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. This staggering number, a dismal record for human misery, coincides roughly with the first year of the coronavirus pandemic. COVID-19 killed about 509,000 people during that same timeframe, from May 2020 to April 2021. The drug overdose death toll jumped 29.5 percent from the same period a year earlier and has nearly doubled over the past five years. Synthetic opioids, mainly fentanyl, caused 64 percent of these overdose deaths, up nearly 50 percent from the year before, according to the CDC’s National Center for Health Statistics.

— source wsws.org | 17 Nov 2021

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COVID-19 virus is evolving to get better at becoming airborne

Results of a new study led by the University of Maryland School of Public Health show that people infected with the virus that causes COVID-19 exhale infectious virus in their breath — and those infected with the Alpha variant (the dominant strain circulating at the time this study was conducted) put 43 to 100 times more virus into the air than people infected with the original strains of the virus. The researchers also found that loose-fitting cloth and surgical masks reduced the amount of virus that gets into the air around infected people by about half. The study was published in Clinical Infectious Diseases.

“Our latest study provides further evidence of the importance of airborne transmission,” said Dr. Don Milton, professor of environmental health at the University of Maryland School of Public Health (UMD SPH). “We know that the Delta variant circulating now is even more contagious than the Alpha variant. Our research indicates that the variants just keep getting better at travelling through the air, so we must provide better ventilation and wear tight-fitting masks, in addition to vaccination, to help stop spread of the virus.”

The amount of virus in the air coming from Alpha variant infections was much more — 18-times more — than could be explained by the increased amounts of virus in nasal swabs and saliva. One of the lead authors, doctoral student Jianyu Lai explained that, “We already knew that virus in saliva and nasal swabs was increased in Alpha variant infections.

— source University of Maryland | Sep 16, 2021

[dont allow virus to mutate by getting affected in the first place. follow the instructions from doctors.]

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How pandemics fuel the rise of mega-corporations

In June 1348, people in England began reporting mysterious symptoms. They started off as mild and vague: headaches, aches, and nausea. This was followed by painful black lumps, or buboes, growing in the armpits and groin, which gave the disease its name: bubonic plague. The last stage was a high fever, and then death.

Originating in Central Asia, soldiers and caravans had brought bubonic plague — Yersina pestis, a bacterium carried on fleas that lived on rats — to ports on the Black Sea. The highly commercialised world of the Mediterranean ensured the plague’s swift transfer on merchant ships to Italy, and then across Europe. The Black Death killed between a third and a half of the population of Europe and the Near East.

This huge number of deaths was accompanied by general economic devastation. With a third of the workforce dead, the crops could not be harvested and communities fell apart. One in ten villages in England (and in Tuscany and other regions) were lost and never re-founded. Houses fell into the ground and were covered by grass and earth, leaving only the

— source theconversation.com | Eleanor Russell, Martin Parker | 04 Jun 2020

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When Profits and Politics Drive Science

More than 100 companies are competing to be first in the race to get a COVID-19 vaccine to market. It’s a race against time, not because the death rate is climbing but because it is falling – to the point where there will soon be too few subjects to prove the effectiveness of the drug.

Pascal Soriot is chief executive of AstraZeneca, a British-Swedish pharmaceutical company that is challenging biotech company Moderna, the U.S. frontrunner in the race. Soriot said on May 24th, “The vaccine has to work and that’s one question, and the other question is, even if it works, we have to be able to demonstrate it. We have to run as fast as possible before the disease disappears so we can demonstrate that the vaccine is effective.”

COVID-19, like other coronaviruses, is expected to mutate at least every season, raising serious questions about claims that any vaccine will work. A successful vaccine has never been developed for any of the many strains of coronaviruses, due to the nature of the virus itself; and vaccinated people can have a higher chance of serious illness and death

— source ellenbrown.com | Jun 4, 2020

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COVID-related plastic waste in the ocean

Around the world, the COVID-19 pandemic has led to an increased demand for single-use plastics such as face masks, gloves, and face shields. The resulting waste, some of which ends up in rivers and oceans, is intensifying pressure on an already out-of-control global plastic problem. Using the model, the researchers found that more than eight million tons of pandemic-associated plastic waste have been generated globally, with more than 25,000 tons entering the global ocean. Within three to four years, a significant portion of this ocean plastic debris is expected to make its way onto either beaches or the seabed. A smaller portion will go into the open ocean, eventually to be trapped in the centers of ocean basins or subtropical gyres, which can become garbage patches, and a circumpolar plastic accumulation zone in the Arctic Ocean.

— source University of California – San Diego | Nov 8, 2021

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Amid Covid-19 and Nationwide Protests, America’s Billionaires Got $79 Billion Richer

An analysis released Thursday by the Institute for Policy Studies finds that the combined wealth of U.S. billionaires surged by $565 billion between March 18 and June 4—the same period in which 42.6 million Americans filed jobless claims.

Over just the past week, according to IPS, the collective net worth of America’s billionaires rose $79 billion as mass layoffs caused by the coronavirus crisis continued across the country. The U.S. Department of Labor announced Thursday that 1.9 million Americans applied for unemployment benefits last week, meaning that nearly 25% of the U.S. workforce is now either receiving unemployment insurance or waiting for approval.

Chuck Collins, director of the Program on Inequality and the Common Good at IPS, said in a statement that “in a turbulent week in the life of the nation, these statistics remind

— source commondreams.org | Jun 04, 2020

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Immunity Passports Are a Threat to Our Privacy and Information Security

With states beginning to ease shelter-in-place restrictions, the conversation on COVID-19 has turned to questions of when and how we can return to work, take kids to school, or plan air travel.

Several countries and U.S. states, including the UK, Italy, Chile, Germany, and California, have expressed interest in so-called “immunity passports”—a system of requiring people to present supposed proof of immunity to COVID-19 in order to access public spaces, work sites, airports, schools, or other venues. In many proposed schemes, this proof would be stored in a digital token on a phone. Immunity passports would threaten our privacy and information security, and would be a significant step toward a system of national digital identification that can be used to collect and store our personal information and track our location.

Immunity passports are purportedly intended to help combat the spread of COVID-19. But there is little evidence that they would actually accomplish that.

On a practical level, there is currently no test for COVID-19 immunity; what we have are antibody tests. But we don’t know whether people with antibodies have immunity.

— source eff.org | Alexis Hancock and Karen Gullo | May 28, 2020

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The richest billionaires became vastly richer during pandemic

A new report reveals that American billionaires have seen their fortunes increase by $434 billion since the start of the pandemic, although at least one analysis disputes that view on the basis of stock losses.

A report from Americans for Tax Fairness and the Institute for Policy Studies’ Program for Inequality arrived at this conclusion after analyzing the earnings of American billionaires between mid-March, when the coronavirus pandemic began to impact the American economy, and mid-May. They found that Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos added $34.6 billion to his wealth and Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg added $25 billion to his wealth, putting them at the top of the list in terms of billionaires who made gains to their fortunes. When it comes to the percentage by which their fortunes have increased, Tesla and SpaceX CEO Elon Musk saw his net worth increase by 48 percent to $36 billion, while Zuckerberg’s wealth rose by 46 percent to $80 billion.

The top five billionaires on that list — Bezos, Zuckerberg, Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates, Oracle CEO Larry Ellison and Berkshire Hathaway CEO Warren Buffett — saw their

— source salon.com | Matthew Rozsa | May 28, 2020

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