Urges immediate actions and collaboration to save lives in the HIV, tuberculosis, hepatitis C, and COVID-19 epidemics
NEW YORK, NY, November 9, 2020—Treatment Action Group (TAG) congratulates President-elect Joe Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris on their ascension to the highest offices of the United States. Their victory in both the popular and electoral vote is historic. We urge the incoming administration to act swiftly in the transition period to implement policies to unite a fractured nation wracked by an out-of-control pandemic and racial injustice.
The task before the new administration is tall, as we approach 10 million infections and over 240,000 people in the U.S. have tragically lost their lives to COVID-19. Unsurprisingly, Black, Latinx, indigenous, and other people of color bear the brunt of this epidemic, in addition to the systematic oppression and state-sanctioned violence perpetrated upon these communities. The outgoing administration has been driven by a complete disregard for science and evidence, which inevitably led to the preventable deaths of hundreds of thousands of people and millions of jobs lost across the United States. We salute the new incoming administration, which must now move quickly to save lives.
The Biden-Harris administration must unequivocally make clear the path on which they will lead the country through policy and action.
We urge the incoming administration to take these immediate steps:
- Restore trust in the federal government’s research agencies and regulatory institutions. Partisan interference in the leadership of institutions, including at the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), must end to allow a science-based, coordinated national response to ending the COVID-19 epidemic. The Biden-Harris administration should not only fill these critical agency leadership positions with qualified individuals, but also ensure meaningful community engagement and leadership in all aspects of the national response. Public trust in the government’s ability to respond to the coronavirus crisis has been profoundly damaged, with vaccine hesitancy on the rise. The government, in coordination with communities, must work diligently to rebuild this trust.
- Rejoin the World Health Organization (WHO) and science-sharing initiatives. The new administration must rescind any actions taken by the outgoing administration to leave the WHO, during a time where diplomacy through science and research is needed more than ever. Restoring U.S. contributions to the WHO are essential not only for the current COVID-19 response, but to support global HIV, tuberculosis (TB), and viral hepatitis efforts. The U.S. must also commit to participating in multilateral coordination efforts—particularly in light of encouraging early efficacy results being reported for Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine candidate—to ensure equitable distribution of vaccines and treatments to all, including those in low- and middle-income countries, to end this pandemic.
- Double-down on government investments in current and emerging infectious disease epidemics. With the staggering loss of lives and livelihoods due to infectious disease magnified by COVID-19, the Biden-Harris administration must do everything in its power to increase investments in programs and research for current and emerging infectious disease epidemics. Even as COVID-19 escalates, the HIV, tuberculosis (TB), and hepatitis C (HCV) epidemics continue to rage and likely worsen as the existing public health workforce shifts its resources toward addressing the new pandemic. We risk the progress made over many years of U.S. investment and leadership to end these deadly infectious diseases once and for all. The new administration can send a powerful message to Congress and the American public by substantially increasing investments in National Institutes of Health / National Institutes of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIH/NIAID), CDC, US Agency for International Development (USAID), President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA), FDA, and National Science Foundation (NSF), and contributions to the Global Fund and WHO, in the administration’s first executive branch budget proposal for FY22. With new tools emerging in recent years for HIV, TB, and HCV that dramatically improve our ability to treat and prevent infections, now is the time to maintain and expand our promised commitments to end these epidemics.
- Protect and expand the Affordable Care Act (ACA). The ACA remains under threat with a pending case before the U.S. Supreme Court that may strike down the law. Losing this health coverage in a time of pandemic will only increase deaths from infectious disease epidemics. The ACA, along with Medicaid and the Ryan White program, are crucial components of a healthcare safety net for people living with HIV and low-income communities of color vulnerable to HIV, TB, and HCV. The Biden-Harris administration should seriously engage with progressive universal health care advocates and Congressional members to acknowledge their role in delivering the swing states which won them this election. They should forcefully advocate for Medicaid expansion in all 50 states, protect the entitlement to Medicaid in those states where it is under threat, and seek any and all legal means necessary to end the challenge to the ACA in the Supreme Court.
To that end, Congress must overcome four years of bitter partisan divisiveness and obstruction and work together to end the HIV, TB, HCV, and COVID-19 epidemics. We look forward to working hand in hand with this administration, Congress, and communities to achieve these priorities in the coming days and weeks.
 Pfizer/BioNTech (Press Release). Pfizer and BioNTech Announce Vaccine Candidate Against COVID-19 Achieved Success in First Interim Analysis from Phase 3 Study. 2020 November 9. https://www.pfizer.com/news/press-release/press-release-detail/pfizer-and-biontech-announce-vaccine-candidate-against