July 8, 2020 at 11:04 am EDT | by Michael K. Lavers
Birx participates in virtual International AIDS Conference
Deborah Birx, gay news, Washington Blade
Dr. Deborah Birx (Photo public domain)

The coordinator of the White House’s coronavirus task force participated in the 2020 International AIDS Conference that is taking place this week.

Dr. Deborah Birx during a pre-taped interview with Liz Schrayer, president of the U.S. Global Leadership Coalition, a group that promotes American diplomacy and international development efforts, that was shown on Tuesday drew parallels between the fights against the coronavirus and HIV/AIDS pandemics.

“It’s the very fundamentals that we learned in HIV, really the key issues about knowing the epidemic, to really make sure that we have the data,” said Birx.

Birx said “the second really core principle” in the fight against the coronavirus is “know your status.” Birx nevertheless conceded the U.S. still needs to do more coronavirus tests.

“We still have to increase testing even further and get to the place where we’re at least being able to see the asymptomatics,” she said.

Birx discussed public health messaging around the pandemic, noting it “doesn’t help to keep saying the same three things over and over again if people aren’t hearing you and being able to apply that to their lives.” Birx also said the countries that have had the highest coronavirus mortality rates has surprised her.

“The majority of the mortality has been in high-income and upper-income countries and although COVID may spare many of the resource-limited setting countries from mortality, it won’t probably for infection and it’s more the community’s reaction to those infections that keep them away from the health facilities that are critical for our incredible work that we’ve done together on HIV, TB and malaria and what our colleagues have done in USAID (U.S. Agency for International Development) with maternal child health and immunizations,” she said.

“The devastation of this at the community level and the devastation to our health care providers who are at the front lines who have been facing … is going to have a long-term impact both psychologically, physically, emotionally and I think financially,” added Birx.

Birx is the U.S. Global AIDS Coordinator and U.S. Special Representative for Global Health Diplomacy at the State Department. She spoke with Schrayer as part of a panel that focused on the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR).

The conference began on Monday. It was scheduled to take place in San Francisco and Oakland, Calif., but it is happening virtually because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Johns Hopkins University of Medicine’s Coronavirus Resource Center notes there are nearly 3 million confirmed coronavirus cases in the U.S. Their statistics also indicate the pandemic has killed more than 131,000 people in this country.

The U.S. has the highest rate of confirmed coronavirus cases and deaths in the world.

Birx’s pre-taped interview with Schrayer was shown on the same day the White House notified the U.N. that the U.S. will begin the process of withdrawing from the World Health Organization, which the Trump administration has sharply criticized over its response to the coronavirus pandemic. Birx did not specifically discuss the federal government’s response to the pandemic, which has also been widely criticized.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergies and Infectious Diseases at the National Institutes of Health who is also a member of the White House’s coronavirus task force, has also participated in the conference. Fauci is scheduled to take part in a virtual press conference on Thursday.

Michael K. Lavers is the international news editor of the Washington Blade. Follow Michael

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