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Opinion Pieces Address Ebola Quarantines, Development Of Treatments, Vaccines

New England Journal of Medicine: Panic, Paranoia, and Public Health — The AIDS Epidemic’s Lessons for Ebola
Gregg Gonsalves, HIV/AIDS activist and co-director of the Yale Global Health Justice Partnership at Yale Law School and Yale School of Public Health, and Peter Staley, HIV/AIDS activist

“For those of us who lived through the early days of the U.S. AIDS epidemic, the current national panic over Ebola brings back some very bad memories. The toxic mix of scientific ignorance and paranoia on display in the reaction to the return of health care workers from the front lines of the fight against Ebola in West Africa, the amplification of these reactions by politicians and the media, and the fear-driven suspicion and shunning of whole classes of people are all reminiscent of the response to the emergence of AIDS in the 1980s. … Why has it been so easy, again and again, to slip into this kind of reaction to a public health issue, and why has it been so difficult for promoters of evidence-based practice to find remedies for it? … Allowing rigorous, independent judicial review before a quarantine is ordered to ensure that it is the least restrictive way to protect health may be an important component in the reform of state quarantine laws. But another lesson from the AIDS epidemic is that we cannot let down our guard. We all have to become activists if we are to protect the public health from being used as a tool to serve primarily political purposes, as it has been over the past few weeks in the United States” (11/5).

Al Jazeera: Ebola in West Africa is a wake-up call
Els Torreele, director of the Access to Medicines Initiative of the Open Society Foundations, and Piero Olliaro, head of intervention and implementation research at the WHO’s Special Program for Research and Training in Tropical Diseases

“Eight months into the world’s worst Ebola outbreak, we have lost 5,000 lives and expect to see more infections and deaths in the coming months. The reason is simple: We have no drug to cure Ebola, or vaccine to prevent it. It didn’t have to be this way. If medicines were actually developed to respond to health needs, we would already have effective vaccines and drugs to prevent and control this deadly disease. … Our current system for developing new medicines is by design ill-suited to address the world’s health needs. … The outbreak of Ebola in West Africa has been a wake-up call. It questions the effectiveness of our emergency preparedness and highlights the need for strengthening our health system. But, it should not stop there. We must seize this moment to rethink our drug and vaccine research and development system, aspiring for one that can respond to such a crisis because it is propelled by global need — not corporate greed” (11/6).

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