When will public health trump profit?

The 30th anniversary of World AIDS Day takes place Dec. 1 with the slogan “Know your status.” In Philadelphia, several organizations are already working to ensure everyone has access to that information, even if unable to pay for a test.

GALAEI, Philadelphia FIGHT, Bebashi Transition to Hope, COLOURS, AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF) and Mazzoni Center are just a few organizations providing free HIV testing. If you don’t want to go into the offices, mobile-testing units frequent different parts of the city, offering confidential tests and some with immediate on-the-spot counseling services available in the event of a positive result.

This week, we provide a supplement full of journalism, storytelling and resources to inform the public about HIV and prevention measures. While HIV is not the imminent death sentence it once was, there are a couple of points to take away: access to PrEP is not as widespread as it should be, and is often not covered by health insurance. An estimated 200,000 HIV-positive people are on PrEP therapy, and 75 percent of them are in the United States. As of last year, UNAIDS estimates nearly 37 million people worldwide are living with HIV/AIDS.

PrEP, under the name Truvada, has been available since 2012. It is 99 percent effective in preventing transmission of HIV to previously uninfected people. We have the solution, but it’s not being implemented, mostly because of cost. A for-profit healthcare system, not surprisingly, puts profit first.

This isn’t the Middle Ages, when a combination of zealous religious beliefs and the four humors (blood, phlegm, black bile and yellow bile) determined a patient’s diagnosis. But in some ways, it might as well be, because at least then, it was impossible to prove the existence of viruses, germs or bacteria, much less mitigate them. Instead, we have the answer to a global scourge and no political will to prioritize public health over profit. We as human beings deserve better.