Category: Health Magazine, Summer 2024

Title:Collaborating on HIV/AIDS pandemic research

Author: Racquel Nassor
Date Published: June 14, 2024

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In April 2023, the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) designated the Center for Global Health Policy & Politics at Georgetown as a United Nations Collaborating Center.

Under Matthew Kavanagh’s leadership, director of the new Center for Global Health Policy & Politics, which bridges the O’Neill Institute at the Law Center and School of Health, and assistant professor of global health in the School of Health, the Collaborating Center works to address inequalities driving the continuing pandemic by advancing policy and laws impacting HIV/AIDS.

U.N. agency, Swiss government, and funder grants enabled the establishment of the Global Council on Inequality, AIDS and Pandemics, chaired by Joseph E. Stiglitz, Nobel Prize-winning economist; Sir Michael Marmot, University College London epidemiology professor; and Monica Geingos, entrepreneur, lawyer, and former first lady of Namibia.

The center is also documenting and improving international HIV-related clinical, financial, and legal policies with the HIV Policy Lab—a collaborative effort between Georgetown University, UNAIDS, and the Global Network of People Living with HIV.

With the Lab’s data, Kavanagh, Charles Birungi, Santiago Cunial, and council member John Ataguba, published Income inequality and pandemics: insights from HIV/AIDS and COVID-19—a multicountry observational study showing that “countries with higher income inequality have seen higher rates of HIV infection, higher rates of AIDS deaths, and higher rates of COVID-19 deaths.”

“We are uncovering the ways that income inequality is actually disabling effective pandemic response,” explains Kavanagh.

In addition, the center investigated how laws targeting LGBTQIA+ people can impact HIV risk. The Global HIV Policy Lab Report found that eliminating laws criminalizing LGBTQIA+ people results in “higher rates of HIV testing among populations, higher rates of getting on antiretroviral treatment, and higher rates of effective viral suppression to stop the transmission of HIV.” Kavanagh notes that the center’s research is “already impacting how people are thinking about their AIDS interventions.”

By promoting community-led monitoring and social science research on the political determinants of health, the center continues the O’Neill Institute’s mission by advancing laws and policies tackling international health challenges.

“The Center for Global Health Policy & Politics reflects our vision for an equitable and just world where all people can achieve optimal health and well-being,” says Christopher J. King, dean of the School of Health. “Under Matthew Kavanagh’s leadership, faculty and students have unique opportunities to advance a global public health agenda through policies and practices that promote social justice.”

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