As Admiral David Farragut led the sea battle to take control of the confederate port of Mobile Bay in 1864, physicians and health care providers continue to provide leadership in battling the COVID pandemic. These selfless health care providers that have put themselves in harm’s way for the last year are now the first “patients” that have volunteered to take the vaccines, now approved for emergency use, from Pfizer and Moderna. We trust the science that has brought us the vaccines and know how important wide scale immunization is to end this pandemic but there are still some unknowns out there without large scale data available yet. (Please sign up for the CDC data collection and help provide the data.) I am proud to be part of this group of people, who truly have become heroes, putting the good of society and their patients before their own well-being in lining up for the vaccine in large numbers.
So, we embark on 2021 with a renewed sense of hope. We have weathered the storm well as the Obstetrical Society. We have been at the tip of the spear being the doctors and nurses to treat thousands of patients that have been shown to frequently be asymptomatic carriers or actively infected carriers of COVID. It appears that most, if not all, of our members have been able to stay healthy. Babies keep coming and there will probably be even more over the next few months. We have been able to continue our mission and conduct our business virtually with success. We have an exciting list of lectures for the spring, starting this month with the care of pregnant patients with HIV.
HIV is a very timely topic, following on the heels of the year 2020 where the COVID pandemic, racial injustice and bigotry captured the headlines on a daily basis. HIV captures all these issues. A pandemic that started in the United States in the gay community. A community that was marginalized and severely discriminated against to the point that some segments of society felt HIV was “just punishment”. This will forever remain a dark mark on our society and the many physicians that refused to treat these patients. It quickly spread to another segment of society that was easy to discriminate against, substance abusers and the poverty stricken. Fortunately, we have come a long way since those dark times in the 1980’s. We still have a long way to go. While other pandemics come and go, we are still living with the HIV pandemic forty years into it. According to the WHO, there have been over 33 million lives lost and there are currently 38 million people living with HIV. In 2019, 690,000 people died from HIV and there were 1.7 million people newly infected with the virus. Some of the blame for this were gaps in care caused by COVID.
Many of us practice in locations and patient populations where we do not see many HIV infected patients. These numbers, however, are sobering reminders that this pandemic is ongoing and there are many patients with this disease. It is incumbent on us to be aware of this fact and our lecture this month will provide a great refresher on the status of treatment of HIV in pregnancy and its impact on the mental health of these patients. Please join us on January 14 for a lecture from Dr. Emily Miller from Northwestern University for an update in the treatment of HIV in pregnancy. Dr. Miller is a national leader on this topic and look forward to a very stimulating lecture.
DONALD DEBRAKELEER, DO