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How One Infectious Disease Highlighted Racial Disparity

by | Jul 11, 2021 | Doctor, Issue 124, Medicine, Top Doctors of the Week | 0 comments

Dr. Mati is a lead HIV clinician at the John Cochran VA Medical Center. A Zimbabwean by birth, she came to the US for medical education and studied at the Lerner College of Medicine. She bagged a master’s degree in Public Health while she did her internal residency in one of the University hospitals. Dr. Mati did a three-year fellowship at Washington State University. Today, she is a new mom with two kids and an avid fan of the Bridgerton series.

At the age of 15, Dr. Mati’s dream of becoming a medical doctor was sealed. The devastating impact of HIV on low-income African countries bothered her terribly. “My main interest and passion in infectious diseases are around the care of people living with HIV.” She shares with Top Doctor Magazine. She is presently the Co-chair for the Fast Track City Initiative, St. Louis, an initiative pushing for the end of the HIV pandemic by 2030. She also advocates for health equity and vaccine equity within marginalized communities.’

HIV and Its Effect on Low-Income African Countries

HIV’s devastation of low-income African countries is remarkable in that it deprives families, towns, and whole countries of its most prosperous and youthful members. Like other infectious diseases, HIV is tied to poverty. Understanding the effect of the virus on rural livelihoods requires understanding the dynamic relationship between poverty and HIV. The relationship is bidirectional in that insecurity is a significant factor in transmission, and HIV will impoverish people to the point of exacerbating the epidemic. Seeing how the people infected with HIV in her country were treated spurred Dr. Mati into the life of medicine, especially the caring of people living with the disease.

“The center of my work was around education, community-engaged work, and advocating for marginalized communities,” she responded when asked if she was part of the research team during the COVID-19 pandemic. The COVID-19 pandemic has put enormous strains on some health services and pushed others to their limits. As a result, responding to this public health disaster and effectively mitigating its effects necessitated the use of all available health resources. In this constantly evolving environment, failing to secure patient care exposes health facilities to vital infrastructure shortages when they are desperately important. After the epidemic began, health care workers received more assistance, unity, and respect than they have ever received. When asked how the epidemic had affected the way she operates, “It changed everything for me.” She said.

COVID-19, the HIV Pandemic, and Their Influences in African American Communities

The COVID-19 pandemic affected the people of color the most because most of them are essential workers. Unlike their white counterparts, they don’t have the luxury of switching to a virtual environment to keep safe.COVID-19 highlights a variety of causes that lead to health inequalities. African Americans are more likely to be critical workers—delivery drivers, grocery store managers, and bus workers—who must perform and engage with others. They’re still overwhelmingly low-wage employees who can’t afford to be idle. African Americans have a more significant burden of cardiovascular illness than white Americans, with up to 40% higher rates of elevated blood pressure and up to 60% higher rates of diabetes. According to the CDC, both cases raise the risk of severe illness from COVID-19. Black and brown people suffering from chronic illnesses live in environments where social isolation is problematic. As a result, the infection spreads more quickly, and more people are affected disproportionately. “Black and Brown people who have a higher caseload are being hospitalized at higher rates and are certainly dying at higher rates than their white counterparts.” Dr. Mati disclosed for Top Doctor Magazine.

She also shared drastic shifts coming in medicine in the future. Dr. Mati would continue to stand against the discriminatory foundational practices against people of color with the way recruitment happens. She also sees a future where basic scientists and clinical researchers would be needed. She stressed diversity as being the key to medical prosperity. Due to the expanded deployment and advancement of emerging technology, telemedicine has become increasingly relevant. It should be considered for inclusion in national and international standards as they are updated. Due to obligatory social distancing and a shortage of appropriate therapies during the COVID-19 pandemic, telemedicine has proven to be the best interactive technology for patients, both sick and uninfected, and clinicians. Dr. Mati pointed out that telemedicine improved the medical industry drastically during the pandemic due to the social distancing rules. “We had to shift to telemedicine-based approaches because there was a risk to people coming in-person to doctor visits.”

Beyond the Scientific Outlook: Psychological Outlook to the COVID-19 Pandemic and the Vaccine

The COVID-19 pandemic has heavily hit black and brown communities, which is why almost all of them find it difficult to trust the vaccine. There may be some underlying cultural apprehension among immigrant families and families of mixed immigration status. The rhetoric and policy over the last few years have been very toxic, and there has been a sense of uncertainty and paranoia for those in immigrant households about the method of getting a vaccine, as well as how health data will be handled if it is gathered. “But the fact that consistently Black and Brown communities are least likely to get a vaccine means that this is more an access issue as it is a vaccine hesitancy or more appropriately a vaccine deliberative issue.” Dr. Mati said.

Dr. Mati’s last thoughts on implementing a direction towards immunity from the COVID-19 pandemic were that it was necessary to be more scientific when responding to public opinion. She also stated that she would continue engaging the community and doing what she loves by caring for people of color. “We still need a diversity of trusted messengers and trusted resources, but we need to be clear on what characteristics a trusted messenger has,” she concluded.

Brianna Connors
Brianna Connors

Born and raised in Oklahoma, Brianna now hangs her hat in the mountains of the East Coast. She is an Alumna of Liberty University with a degree in Criminal Justice and is a multiple time recipient of the Dean’s list award. As one of the senior journalists of Top Doctor Magazine, she has had the pleasure of interviewing many doctors and professionals about their fields of expertise.

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