March 24, 2020

AIDS & COVID-19 in Vancouver, Physical Distancing & Those Italian Mayors


I was talking with Gordon Price who is just finishing his Australian tour in Melbourne. We were discussing the AIDS epidemic where we first met. We  both worked on policy supporting people with AIDS and their families~I worked for Dr. John Blatherwick as a health planner and was on the Mayor’s Task Force on AIDS.

Gordon Campbell was mayor and he formed a committee of  business leaders to bring the epidemic front and center  to Vancouver’s work community. This group travelled to San Francisco and experienced first hand the need for immediate specialized services, triage, housing and hospice.   In the early days of AIDS no one really knew how it was spread, causing a lot of fear and panic in the community.  AIDS also was a disease that did a zoonotic jump, from chimps to humans. Globally 32 million people have died from AIDS since the virus was first discovered.

AIDs had a different course in Vancouver than other major cities. The gay community came forward and formed several organizations to get the message out about how the virus was transmitted, and worked tirelessly to create specialized services and follow up. It was this active advocacy and continued strong consistent messaging that meant the disease was more contained in Vancouver. In the 1980’s AIDS  did not spread rapidly to other risk groups as other cities experienced.

The COVID-19 virus is also a zoonotic introduction, most probably from horseshoe bats. Like AIDS was perceived forty years ago, there is as of this date no known way to stop the course of the COVID-19  virus other than having a community agree to physically distance from each other. That seems to be challenging for many people.

Vancouver Mayor Kennedy Stewart expressed frustration with the fact that citizens were still clustering and crowding in public spaces. Mayor Stewart stated on Sunday that people had to  “Shut down, stay put, save lives.”

The alternative would be an order that required people to stay in their residences. That would be all the time except for essential trips.

Even in the midst of a horrific death toll from the COVID-19 virus in Italy citizens are still not heeding a stay in place order. Take a look at the two videos below from the Mayor of Bari Italy and the Mayor of the Sicilian town of Dalia Italy telling people just to stay home.  One mayor chases people out of parks. The other mayor in complete frustration demands to know why citizens won’t shelter to save lives.

As of Monday March 23, 6,077 Italians had died, with a total of  63,928  COVID-19 epidemic cases.




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