Black Death: Fauci Compares COVID-19 to HIV/AIDS Epidemic

By N. Jamiyla Chisholm Apr 08, 2020

The growing racial inequity that COVID-19 is exposing can be seen in the scant data currently available, as Colorlines reported Tuesday (April 7). Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, agreed with advocates during a press conference yesterday when he compared coronavirus to the disproportionate deaths of gay men during the HIV/AIDS epidemic of the 1980s (which then became an epidemic for African Americans.)

“I see a similarity here because health disparities have always existed for the African American community,” Fauci said. “Here again with the crisis, how it’s shining a bright light on how unacceptable that is because, yet again, when you have a situation like the coronavirus, they are suffering disproportionately.”

After noting that underlying health conditions are a major reason for why Black Americans are succumbing to the illness more quickly than others, Fauci said, “When all this is over and, as we said, it will end, we will get over coronavirus, but there will still be health disparities which we really do need to address in the African American community.”

Fauci has friends in medicine and politics who want to see the nation’s health disparities righted.

"I’m concerned this will be yet another case where there’s a huge difference between people who are more wealthy and people who are poor, and there’s going to be a difference between people of color and how much they suffer," Marcus Plescia, the chief medical officer for the Association of State and Territorial Health Officials, told NBC News. “We have a longstanding legacy of bias and racism in our country and we’re not going to get beyond that quickly.”

On April 3, 2020, New York City Public Advocate Jumaane D. Williams called on the city’s Mayor Bill de Blasio and Department of Health and Mental Hygiene Commissioner Oxiris Barbot to release information on the racial impact of the public health crisis in a letter. The letter was written “following complaints and concerns that the most marginalized New Yorkers are experiencing more difficulty accessing COVID-19 testing while the wealthy and privileged may have greater access.”

In response, de Blasio announced on Tuesday, April 8 that the city will soon release data that shows racial breakdowns in relation to COVID-19, NBC News reports. Confirming that New York City does have data on gender and age, de Blasio said that hospitals are finding it hard to also track race during the crisis. 

As recently reported by Colorlines, cities like Chicago, Los Angeles and certain counties in California are starting to include race when taking data on COVID-19.