Pernicious Epistemically Justified Distrust and Public Health Skepticism

By Mark Satta and  Lacey J. Davidson

In recent years philosophers concerned with epistemic, moral, and political matters have identified many different types of epistemic injustice. Epistemic injustice refers to “forms of unfair treatment that relate to issues of knowledge, understanding, and participation in communicative practices.”

We are particularly concerned with epistemic injustices in the public health context and the consequences such injustices have for those most marginalized within our current society. When powerful entities act badly, individuals and communities justifiably distrust those entities. This distrust then guides individuals and communities in making decisions with respect to these entities, often causing them to avoid the entities in question. We are concerned with cases in which the distrust is harmful to the individual, even when it is justified. We think this circumstance is particularly common and troublesome in the public health context. Read More

A social inequality icon in São Paulo, Brazil's biggest city: The Paraisópolis Favela and the luxury buildings

Wealth Inequality is a Vital Public Health Issue

Every day, 10,000 people die because of a lack of health care. Yes, every day. That’s over 3.5 million people annually. This shocking statistic comes from a report released last month by Oxfam.

The primary topic of Oxfam’s report was not global mortality rates or health coverage. Rather it was about global wealth and income inequality. Oxfam’s title for the press release containing this information was “Billionaire fortunes grew by $2.5 billion a day last year as poorest saw their wealth fall.” Read More

3D illustration of anatomically correct HIV Virus floating in the bloodstream

HIV Treatment: Functional Cures are Just One Aspect of Newsworthy Progress

Major news networks around the globe this week broke the story that a second HIV-positive patient appears to have been “functionally cured” of HIV.

In a welcome piece of good news, the world learned that an anonymous individual, known simply as “the London patient” has experienced a year and a half of sustained remission of the HIV virus without medication. The patient entered into remission after receiving a bone marrow transplant from someone naturally resistant to HIV infection. This is the second functional cure of HIV of its kind. The first such case occurred in 2007.

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Spitting at Science: The Unjustified Criminalization of Spitting While HIV-Positive

Saliva doesn’t transmit HIV. And no one has ever become HIV-positive because an HIV-positive person spit on them.

Yet a number of states, including Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Nebraska, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, and Texas, either have laws that explicitly criminalize the act of spitting specifically if one is HIV-positive or in recent years have used the criminal law to prosecute and convict the act of spitting by an HIV-positive person. Read More

Image of a pile of gold coins on top of a map showing African continent

Repayment for Training as an Optimal Solution to Medical Brain Drain

In an earlier post I offered two arguments for why wealthy nations have a moral obligation to address medical professional brain drain from resource-scarce developing nations. But once one acknowledges that wealthy nations have this obligation, a question remains as to what the best way to fulfill that obligation is.

Some have suggested that the solution is for wealthy nations to train an ample amount of doctors in their home countries so that they no longer need to take talent from developing nations to make up for the gap. This idea has intuitive appeal. After all, it allows more medical doctors to be trained in wealthy nations like the U.S. and results in more doctors being trained overall (assuming that developing nations would continue to train the same amount of doctors under such a model). Read More

Successful HIV Criminalization Reform in California: Q and A with Sen. Scott Wiener

The majority of states have laws that criminalize activities by HIV-positive people that are not criminalized when the rest of the population engages in them.

Many of these laws improperly single out HIV over other infectious diseases and reflect a lack of understanding of both how HIV spreads and how it can be treated.

In 2017, California passed legislation which modernized and improved California’s HIV criminalization law. One of the authors of the law was State Senator Scott Wiener. I recently had a chance to ask Sen. Wiener some questions about that process.

His responses are given here in hopes of supplying useful information for legislators, lobbyists, and activists in other states who are interested in starting the reform process in their own states or other jurisdictions around the world. This interview has been edited for clarity.

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A doctor in Mtimbwani, Tanzania helps a woman and child.

Two Reasons Why Wealthy Nations Ought to Address Medical Brain Drain

African governments spend millions of dollars every year training physicians who will leave their home countries to live and work in wealthier nations. The result is that for countries like Ethiopia, Kenya, and Sierra Leone, more of their native physicians are now in the United States and Europe than at home. This massive movement of physician has likely contributed to health crises in many African nations, where citizens die of easily curable diseases each year.

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a stethoscope tied around a dollar bill, with a bottle of pills nearby

Drug Pricing Controls and the Power of Familiar Ideas

Eight in ten Americans think that prescription drug prices are unreasonable, according to a March 2018 Kaiser poll. That same poll found that more Americans considered passing legislation to lower drug pricing to be a top priority than passing legislation to improve infrastructure or to address the prescription painkiller epidemic, among other things.

Effectively addressing drug pricing is a complex task that will require the diligent efforts of many actors. On October 24, the Petrie-Flom Center held a full day’s programming to this important and timely topic. What I want to state here is a simple point—namely, that the very discussion of potential solutions can play a role in turning creative innovations into implementable solutions.

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person wearing gloves holding HIV test

Southern Indiana’s HIV Outbreak: A Lesson on the Importance of Incentivizing HIV Testing

By 2015, major news outlets were reporting on what the CDC was calling “one of the worst documented outbreaks of HIV among IV users in the past two decades.” Between 2011 and 2015 over 200 people in southern Indiana’s Scott County acquired HIV. The primary source of the spread was the sharing of needles to inject opioid drugs. While the outbreak has now been contained, there linger many lessons to be learned from the tragedy that struck this small rural county in southeast Indiana.

Some of those lessons are about the havoc being wreaked on much of rural America by opioid abuse. But the lessons I’m focusing on here are the dangers of disincentivizing HIV testing, especially among high-risk populations like injection drug users. Read More

Health Care for All Requires More than Funding, It Requires Building Trust

The slogan “healthcare for all” typically stands as a proxy claim for “health insurance for all.” Given the Trump Administration’s recurrent attempts to decrease the effectiveness of President Obama’s comprehensive health insurance regulation reform law, the Affordable Care Act, it’s understandable that health insurance would be a major focus of those concerned with reforming the health care system. Millions of Americans remain uninsured and/or unable to pay for the health services they need, so continued efforts to reform our health insurance system remain vital.

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