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Pandemics and politics: Lessons from the HIV/AIDS crisis | TheHill – The Hill



In 1988 I took a job helping eight AIDS service organizations assemble a coalition to demand a better response to a national epidemic largely ignored by our government. The group was small, underfunded, politically naïve, and had collectively never worked in policy at any level. Yet by 1991 it gave rise to one of the most effective and innovative public health responses of our time.

Having been on those front lines to witness one of the darkest moments of a deep failure of politics and then the pivotal change to systemic reform, I believe there are valuable lessons to be learned — many replicable to fight against the COVID-19 pandemic we now face.

Pandemics expose systemic failures; therefore, systemic solutions are required if we hope to respond effectively. COVID-19, like its cousins HIV, SARS and Ebola, is a merciless teacher of weakness — perhaps more so in our political system than in any other.


You can see the parallels clearly between HIV/AIDS and COVID-19. What went wrong in the response to the HIV/AIDS crisis from 1983 to 1991 was a massive failure of politics, but what went right was the subsequent political movement that funded science, treatment, prevention, civil rights protection and health care access. When we sought solutions for HIV/AIDS, we didn’t look at band-aids to systems, but rather at reforming and innovating the public health system that had failed millions of people.

This is exactly what must happen now with COVID-19.

These situations are not perfect analogies, but the pivotal role politics has and will play before, during and after their emergence reveals a few hard lessons learned that can be applied to our current crisis. 

The public health imperatives for COVID-19 mimic the recommendations made for HIV/AIDS — namely massive testing and contact tracing. Yet before we could test the most vulnerable populations and seek their cooperation in contact tracing, we needed trust. Trust that a positive test didn’t mean a death sentence, unemployment, eviction or isolation from family and friends. Systemic failures and inadequate support drives people away, underground and anonymous — it also spreads a deadly virus.

There is an alarm bell going off in the disparities the impact COVID-19 has on vulnerable communities across America right now. And that’s exactly what happened between 1983 and 1991, when the government only sowed distrust and alienation, leading to the erasure of entire communities. This is not an easy truth, but it is an essential one that we must heed in our response to COVID-19.    


The turning point of the HIV/AIDS epidemic was when political forces that had denied it and stigmatized it changed their tune. That moment was the passage of the Ryan White CARE Act — the nation’s first and still most comprehensive response to the care and treatment of people with HIV/AIDS. The bill was written by the front-line leaders I worked with at AIDS Action—the eight organizations on the ground every day serving the sick and suffering. Their insight into policy solutions and the practical demands of service are the cornerstone of the bill’s continued success.  

The same should be the case for our policy responses to COVID-19. Enough with throwing fluffy accolades at first responders and health care workers; instead, invite them to the policy table and ask them how the government can address this pandemic more effectively and with lasting results. The answers are there if politicians listen. 

In these moments, three things must prevail: sound policy formed by experts in close alignment with science and facts; mature politics by leaders who set aside ideology, take responsibility and unite us under comprehensive legislation; and public knowledge of facts, not spins on stories that propagate more confusion and distrust. There will be accountability when these trying times are over, as there was with HIV/AIDS. Today’s politicians should understand that, throughout our present pandemic, the country is watching them.

History is our best teacher; actions are our best hope for the future. Politics and pandemics are inextricably linked, and our future lies in the balance, once again.  

Thomas F. Sheridan is a 30-year veteran lobbyist, with advocacy efforts including Bono’s ONE Campaign, AIDS Action and Save the Children. He served as lead lobbyist for the Americans with Disabilities Act and is author of “Helping the Good Do Better: How a White Hat Lobbyist Advocates for Social Change.”

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Can’t Argue Politics at Thanksgiving? Argue About the Food – Bloomberg



This is Bloomberg Opinion Today, a Thanksgiving dinner of Bloomberg Opinion’s opinions. Sign up here.

Today’s Agenda

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Gnaw and order.
Photographer: Evans/Hulton Archive/Getty Images

Thought for Food, Thanksgiving Edition

One upside of this year’s downsized Thanksgiving is you’re less likely to get into political arguments with relatives. Better luck next year, Racist Uncle Ned. Unfortunately, this also leaves you with less to discuss at the table. Fortunately, you’ll have some pretty interesting conversation pieces sitting on the plate in front of you. 

For example, did you know there’s a good chance your turkey came from Minnesota, your cranberries from Wisconsin and your sweet potatoes from North Carolina? Justin Fox knows this now, because of researching it, along with many other interesting facts about which political swing states produce the food that will have you “swinging” to the couch for a long nap. 

#lazy-img-366293994:beforepadding-top:60.03086419753087%;The Sweet Potato Oligopoly

And you might think this weird holiday season would be good news for turkeys and bad news for the farms that slaughter them for people to eat. In fact, David Fickling writes, one of the weird ways Americans have coped with coronavirus lockdowns is to re-create Thanksgiving dinners again and again, spending their many spare hours brining, spatchcocking, stuffing and roasting. This pandemic can’t end soon enough, for humans or for turkeys. Also, zombie minks. Anyway, Happy Thanksgiving!

Trump’s Power to Make Mischief

President Donald Trump just can’t seem to help himself. Even with President-elect Joe Biden’s transition now in full swing, and even after Pennsylvania certified Biden as winning its electoral votes, Trump had planned to travel to Gettysburg today with his lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, to complain more about voter fraud in that state.

Trump bailed on the trip, possibly depriving America of another much-needed Four Seasons Total Landscaping moment. But he’s obviously not ready to leave the stage gracefully. In fact, every move he has made since the election that hasn’t involved either claiming robbery or pardoning turkeys has been to make trouble for Biden and, by extension, the country, writes Tim O’Brien. And he still has two months in which to make mischief. Of course, there is a non-zero chance he’ll simply flee to Mar-a-Lago before his term is up. But even then, Bill Barr and other highly placed loyalists can quietly pour sugar in the gas tank of the government just before handing it off to Biden.

Of the many Chernobyl-sized messes Trump is leaving Biden, the relationship with China is one that hasn’t gotten much attention lately. But maybe it should, considering how these two nuclear-armed countries could someday end up at war. Trump has simply stopped communicating with China, leaving the two sides exchanging only menacing gestures at this point, writes Bloomberg’s editorial board. That won’t end well. Biden doesn’t have to be much less hawkish about China, but he should at least get the two sides talking again. 

Pandemic-Friendly Companies 

As we’ve mentioned a bunch in this newsletter, weird pandemic habits such as our whole-turkey craze have been an unexpected windfall to many lucky companies. One of these is Deere, notes Brooke Sutherland, which makes the tractors that produce the food that we have spent many extra hours preparing and eating. And the prospect of slightly warmer relations with China under Biden make the future look even brighter for Deere, raising the potential for more food demand, more farming and more tractors.

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Tech companies — and Deere’s modern space-age tractors almost make it one of those — have also thrived in the pandemic as we all shop and surf and binge on our couches. The payment company Stripe has been one beneficiary, so much so that it’s raising new private funding at what could be a $100 billion valuation, which has more than doubled since just April, writes Alex Webb. But with great valuation comes greater expectations and pressures. 

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RIP, Maradona

Argentine football diety Diego Maradona died. Bobby Ghosh makes the case Maradona was the greatest player of all time, better than Ronaldo or Messi because he had to do everything basically alone. He was Jordan without a Pippen. He had many incredible goals, but his best may have been the one that sealed England’s fate in the 1986 World Cup. Here’s how that play-by-play translates into English:

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Telltale Charts

Many African economies, which are increasingly dominated by tech companies, have also thrived in this pandemic, writes Matthew Winkler. It doesn’t hurt that these countries have handled the virus relatively well. 

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Further Reading

Why not do an Operation Warp Speed for green energy? Because that’s far more complicated than vaccines. — Tyler Cowen 

France and Germany say different things about the U.S. relationship but have similar goals: more European self-sufficiency. — Andreas Kluth 

It’s clear Biden will need new tactics to remove Nicolas Maduro from power, including possibly cutting a deal. — Mac Margolis 


Trump pardoned Michael Flynn.

Amazon is starting to experience shipping delays.

New Jersey’s $5 billion mall needs a Black Friday miracle

Kominers’s Conundrums Hint

If you can’t figure out how to unscramble the answer letters in our country music Conundrum, don’t forget to look to Dolly Parton for a bit of help. You might find there’s less unscrambling to be done than sorting.

And if you’re still having trouble figuring out that Garth Brooks song, it’s possible you’ve got the wrong Aesop’s fox fable. We were thinking of this one, rather than this one. — Scott Duke Kominers


A laser fusion reactor is nearing a “burning plasma” moment.

An amateur astronomer may have found the source of the “Wow!” signal.

Brussels sprouts really used to be nastier than they are today

Some Thanksgiving tips from a professional chef.

Note: There will be no newsletter on Thursday or Friday.

Please send Brussels sprouts and complaints to Mark Gongloff at

Sign up here and follow us on Twitter and Facebook.

    This column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of the editorial board or Bloomberg LP and its owners.

    To contact the author of this story:
    Mark Gongloff at

    To contact the editor responsible for this story:
    Brooke Sample at

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    A break from politics | The Blade – Toledo Blade









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    Should Politics Be On The Discussion Menu On Thanksgiving? Experts Weigh In – CBS New York



    NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — Getting ready to gather virtually with family on Thanksgiving?

    How will you navigate inevitable conversations about the still-contentious election?

    Is politics simply to be avoided? Can it be?

    Those were the days, remembered Sheri Baker of Old Westbury. Thanksgiving will look very different this year with a giant family Zoom chat, but there are some things that won’t be different.

    “We have learned sort of the hard way that there are some topics when it comes to politics that are better left unsaid in order to keep the holidays happy,” Baker told CBS2’s Carolyn Gusoff on Wednesday.


    Emotions are still running high following the the election, splitting not only the country, but families.

    “I think our country is more divided than ever.

    “It’s terrible,” another person said.

    MOREJoe Biden Introduces New Members Of National Security, Foreign Policy Teams

    And as we gather, even virtually, should politics be banned from Thanksgiving?

    “What I do recommend is speaking to family in advance and having a plan,” said Dr. Amanda Fialk, chief of clinical services at the DORM, a treatment community in New York City for young adults.

    Fialk said to set parameters ahead of time to either avoid politics or limit when it may be discussed.

    “I think it’s useful to ask questions of them rather than to speak at them and make statements,” Fialk said.

    And take a timeout when you’re simply not hearing one another.

    “When it’s no longer productive, end it. And that doesn’t mean end it forever. That just means end it for right now,” Fialk said.

    MOREGeneral Services Administration Tells Biden Team It Can Begin Formal Transition Process

    Or take a cue from couples therapy techniques to help heal relationships with those on the other side of the political divide.

    “We are an American family. We sit a the same table and if we expel people from the table because of their political views we will lose our ability to function as a country,” said family therapist Bill Doherty, co-founder of Braver Angels.

    “I think everybody’s aim is to try to do their part, to keep healthy, keep safe, protect our friends and family and strangers, so we can get through this,” Baker added.

    Baker said she plans to focus on being thankful, to count our blessings, not our differences.


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