By Brieanna Charlebois in Vancouver
A new study says reduced access to HIV services during early COVID-19 lockdowns in British Columbia was associated with a “sharp increase” in HIV transmission among some drug users.
The study by University of British Columbia researchers says that while reduced social interaction during the March-May 2020 lockdown worked to reduce HIV transmission, that may not have “outweighed” the increase caused by reduced access to services.
The study, published in Lancet Regional Health, found that fewer people started HIV antiretroviral therapy or undertook viral load testing under lockdown, while visits to overdose prevention services and safe consumption sites also decreased.
The overall number of new HIV diagnoses in B.C. continues a decades-long decline.
But Dr. Jeffrey Joy, lead author of the report published on Friday, said he found a “surprising” spike in transmission among some drug users during lockdown.
Joy said transmission rates for such people had previously been fairly stable for about a decade.
“That’s because there’s been really good penetration of treatment and prevention services into those populations,” he said in an interview.
B.C. was a global leader in epidemic monitoring, which means the results are likely applicable elsewhere, Joy said.
“We are uniquely positioned to find these things,” he said. “The reason that I thought it was important to do this study and get it out there is (because) it’s probably happening everywhere, but other places don’t monitor their HIV epidemic in the same way that we do.”
Rachel Miller, a co-author of the report, said health authorities need to consider innovative solutions so the measures “put in place to address one health crisis don’t inadvertently exacerbate another.”
“These services are the front-line defence in the fight against HIV/AIDS. Many of them faced disruptions, closures, capacity limits and other challenges,” Miller said in a news release.
“Maintaining access and engagement with HIV services is absolutely essential to preventing regression in epidemic control and unnecessary harm.”
The Health Ministry did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
Researchers said the spike among “select groups” could be attributed to a combination of factors, including housing instability and diminished trust, increasing barriers for many people who normally receive HIV services.
British Columbia is set to become the first province in Canada to decriminalize the possession of small amounts of hard drugs in January, after receiving a temporary federal exemption in May.
Joy said this decision, alongside measures like safe supply and safe needle exchanges, will make a difference preventing similar issues in the future.
“The take-home message here is, in times of crisis and public health emergency or other crises, we need to support those really vulnerable populations more, not less,” he said.
“Minimally, we need to give them continuity and the access to their services that they depend on. Otherwise, it just leads to problems that can have long, long-term consequences.”
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 24, 2022.
Alberta premier defends new rules on in-person learning, no mask mandates in schools
By Dean Bennett and Colette Derworiz
Alberta Premier Danielle Smith is defending new rules ordering schools to provide in-person learning during the current wave of viral illnesses, saying a clear, measured response is crucial for students and parents.
“We need a normal school environment for our children, and we need to make sure that the classrooms stay open to be able to support our parents,” Smith said at a news conference in Medicine Hat on Friday.
“That’s why we made the decision that we did — to give that clear direction.”
Her comments came a day after she announced regulatory changes saying school boards must provide in-person learning. Schools also can’t require students to wear masks in school or be forced to take classes online.
The changes take effect immediately.
“Anyone is welcome to wear a mask if they feel that that is the right choice for them, but we should not be forcing parents to mask their kids, and we shouldn’t be denying education to kids who turn up without a mask,” Smith said.
She has said mask rules and toggling from online to in-person learning adversely affected the mental health, development and education of students during the COVID-19 pandemic and strained parents scrambling to make child-care arrangements when schools shut down.
That’s over, Smith said.
“We’re just not going to normalize these kind of extreme measures every single respiratory virus season,” she said.
School boards have been asking for more direction as a slew of seasonal respiratory and gastrointestinal illnesses, along with some COVID-19 cases, have led to high classroom absentee rates and have jammed children’s hospitals.
In Edmonton, Trisha Estabrooks, board chair for Edmonton Public Schools, said the decision provided the clarity that the board was seeking.
“All Albertans now understand that it’s not within the jurisdiction, and nor should it ever have been within the jurisdiction of individual school boards, to make decisions that belong to health officials,” said Estabrooks.
She said the province has made it clear that any future public health order would supersede the new rules.
The in-person learning change applies to grades 1-12 in all school settings, including public, separate, francophone, public charter and independent schools.
The masking change applies to those same grades and schools, but also to early childhood services.
The Opposition NDP criticized the new rules, saying it’s unrealistic to force schools to be all things to all students while also handling a wave of viral illnesses and not providing additional supports to do it.
Jason Schilling, head of the Alberta Teachers’ Association, said the government needs to work with school boards to figure out how to make this work.
“You have schools that are struggling to staff the building, (they) can’t get substitute teachers, teachers are sick, they’re covering each other’s classes, principals are covering the classes,” Schilling said in an interview.
“And then to say if you go online, you are to still offer the same programming in person — we just don’t have the people to do that.”
Wing Li, communications director for public education advocacy organization, Support our Students, said it will be difficult for schools to offer hybrid learning without any additional resources.
“There are no teachers,” Li said in an interview. “Pivoting online was mostly due to staffing shortages, which is worse now three years in.”
Li said online learning is challenging for students but, when temporary and supported, can keep schools and communities safe from spreading illness.
“This is a quite aggressive use of the Education Act to enshrine an ideology,” she said.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 25, 2022
Three Medical Policies that Need Immediate Changing
From the Brownstone Institute
You can’t make this up: The same cast of characters who erred so badly on COVID-19 want a do-over. A head-turning essay in The Atlanticwent so far as to plead for “pandemic amnesty.” For many in the medical community who have been derided by the likes of Dr. Anthony Fauci and his fanatics, these words ring hollow. Talk, as they say, is cheap, especially with the benefit of hindsight. Before a COVID-19 mulligan can be considered, here are three policies that must change.
First, “vaccine or bust” proponents must admit their approach overpromised and underdelivered. President Biden has repeatedly declared COVID-19 a “pandemic of the unvaccinated,” despite the science indicating otherwise. His claim that the vaccinated “do not spread the disease to anyone else” was rated “mostly false” by PolitiFact. Simply lowering the goalposts about less severe symptoms is insufficient. This is not what we were promised.
Making matters worse was the weaponization of this misinformation to influence public policy. It wasn’t just a smug Rachel Maddow telling her audience in March 2021 that the “virus stops with every vaccinated person.” This so-called science was used to pit Americans against one another, keep children out of school and force personnel out of critically important positions in the military, schools and first responders. Last fall, 5% of unvaccinated adults reported leaving their jobs.
I should know. I’ve been on the receiving end of threats to my livelihood.
This brings us to point two: The new California law empowering the punishment of doctors deemed guilty of spreading “misinformation” must be repealed before it can inflict further damage. Signed by Gov. Gavin Newsom, California Assembly Bill 2098 enables the state to strip the medical licenses of professionals who veer from the preferred political party line.
It’s a disturbing trend taking hold across the country. The American Board of Internal Medicine (ABIM) recently voted to remove Dr. Peter McCullough, one of the nation’s leading cardiologists, from his certifications in cardiovascular disease. Mr. McCullough’s sin had nothing to do with his performance in caring for patients, but rather with questioning the necessity of the COVID-19 vaccine for younger populations. With their far-reaching certification authority, the ABIM has the power to make any doctor’s life a living hell. Mr. McCullough’s fate now hangs in the balance until his Nov. 18 appeal date. This dangerous precedent must be nipped in the bud in the nation’s most populous state (governed by an oft-mentioned future presidential candidate) before it can take hold elsewhere.
Third, the District of Columbia must scrap its vaccine mandate for children in schools once and for all. Last week’s vote to delay compliance until January 3, 2023, is not enough. DC is one of the only school districts in the country with this type of requirement, going further than their counterparts in New York City or Los Angeles.
Last month, nearly half (44.7%) of DC school students fell short of COVID-19 compliance, according to Axios. In a city where 60% of the school-age population is Black, this mandate is not only unnecessary but is perpetuating further inequity. The pandemic has already taken an incredible toll on our children’s education, with math and reading scores falling to astonishing new lows. It is beyond misguided to bar children from attending school unless they receive a vaccine for an illness that poses a far smaller hazard to their health than the soaring crime rates in our cities.
From masks to breakthrough cases to alternative treatments, the so-called experts have amassed a track record of incorrect judgments that make political pollsters look good by comparison. Even in the fog of a once-in-a-century pandemic, these decisions were not just borne of inexpert and incorrect scientific knowledge but rather driven by a rush to push a medical agenda.
Our organization, the Front Line COVID-19 Critical Care Alliance (FLCCC) practices what we preach. As data evolved over time, we updated our recommendations and approaches accordingly. It wasn’t luck. We were following the science. Sadly, government agencies stuck with their unceasing policy recommendations that were increasingly divorced from the science.
One thing most people can agree on: COVID-19 won’t be the last public health emergency. There are already concerning headlines about an early spike of RSV impacting children. The leaders of captured health agencies must learn from their mistake of allowing the pharmaceutical industry unimpeded control of pandemic health policy. Americans are incredibly forgiving people willing to show grace, but step one in that process is a willingness for those in charge to admit their mistakes.
Republished from Washington Times
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