Congress’s posturing on HIV funding threatens 20 years of progress

By Dr. Lyndon Haviland

November 28, 2023


This year marks [PEPFAR’s] 20th anniversary — and it’s in jeopardy due to a bitter partisan battle over one of the nation’s most divisive political issues: abortion. …

PEPFAR is considered the largest program by any nation to address a specific disease in history. It has helped prevent HIV infections and contain the spread of the virus in more than 50 countries across the world. And it has increased child immunizations and reduced maternal and child mortality in those areas as well. …

A group of GOP lawmakers claim PEPFAR funding is being routed to organizations that provide abortion services, which the White House denies. The GOP-controlled U.S. House passed a one-year reauthorization for PEPFAR with specific abortion restriction provisions, but its fate in the U.S. Senate is now in doubt. …

As lawmakers return to their districts this holiday season, Congress should remind itself how PEPFAR started, the millions it has saved, the millions more who stand to benefit — and that it’s not a sign of weakness to work together to advance the greater cause of our own humanity.

Loneliness: The silent epidemic hiding in plain sight

By Dr. Lyndon Haviland

September 28, 2023


Millions of Americans face a public health threat that’s both overlooked and grossly underdiagnosed. It can’t be detected with a medical test or prevented by a vaccine. It doesn’t have a complex scientific name, dominate news headlines, spark a political debate or require social distancing.  

Social isolation can actually trigger its onset and lead to serious medical consequences including disease and early death. And while it doesn’t bear the hallmarks of other modern-day public health crises, given its wide reach, it demands action by Congress so that vast numbers of people across the nation may live longer, healthier lives.

It’s loneliness.

In New Mexico, ‘Oppenheimer’ offers new hope for long denied compensation

By Dr. Lyndon Haviland

August 23, 2023


The movie “Oppenheimer” shows the destruction from the blast of the first atomic bomb, known as the Trinity test, on July 16, 1945, roughly 200 miles south of Los Alamos, N.M.  

Since then, under the Radiation Exposure Compensation Act (RECA), the U.S. government has paid billions to residents of Arizona, Utah and Nevada who experienced downwind health impacts from 100 other aboveground atmospheric nuclear weapons tests that took place in Nevada between 1945 and 1962.

That could soon change. Bipartisan legislation to expand RECA to include New Mexicans living downwind of the explosions has passed the U.S. Senate, partially due to the increased visibility of “Oppenheimer.” Assistance for New Mexico residents is finally a possibility. President Biden this month signaled that he would sign the measure if it were to reach his desk. It’s now up to lawmakers in the U.S. House to make it happen.

The new CDC director’s most critical mission is rebuilding public trust

By Dr. Lyndon Haviland

August 3, 2023

President Biden recently appointed Dr. Mandy Cohen as the new director at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and the announcement couldn’t have come at a more critical time. Many Americans have lost faith in public health and the agencies that monitor, respond and protect the health of our nation.  …

Responding to complex health problems requires that we trust the leadership of independent experts and organizations like the CDC. But when elected leaders use them as tools to advance political party ideologies, public health suffers.  …

Rebuilding trust in the CDC requires that we rise above politics and see the CDC and its people for who they truly are: committed health advocates serving our shared self-interest. We must treat them as stewards of our collective safety, not governors of our personal freedoms. 

The nation wants to feed hungry students: Congress, make it happen

By Dr. Lyndon Haviland

July 5, 2023


When an overwhelming number of Americans support a specific public health policy, as rare as that is these days, you’d think our elected leaders in Washington would rush to pass legislation that reflects the will of their respective voters.  

And when that policy involves the pressing issue of solving child hunger, you’d think Congress would move expeditiously to prevent further suffering endured by a defenseless segment of the U.S. population. 

Unfortunately, that isn’t happening. 

The fate of a bill that addresses this very problem by making free school meals permanent for eligible U.S. recipients is currently in limbo. Research has shown such programs can have a positive impact on student math and English test scores. Nearly 70 percent of U.S. adults support it

Congress has the ability to act, right now, to make it federal law for the upcoming school year. But the bill has stalled, and its future remains in doubt.  

Once again, SNAP is a political football: And Americans suffer for it

By Dr. Lyndon Haviland

May 20, 2023


More than half of all students, and nearly 40 percent of all faculty at New Mexico’s higher education institutions don’t have enough food to eat. The findings, from a new state-funded study, reveal troubling statistics representative of a worsening problem across America. New Mexico is taking steps to address it — and other states should pay attention. …

The study is timely, as government programs designed to help those who go hungry every day are currently being politically targeted for elimination. The nation’s food insecure are now pawns in a debt-ceiling showdown between Democrats and Republicans in Congress, where elected leaders are placing their own political agendas above the needs of starving U.S. citizens.  

America’s heinous regression on child labor exploits vulnerable migrants

By Dr. Lyndon Haviland

April 19, 2023


Current figures from the U.S. Department of Labor show today’s unemployment rate has dropped to 3.4 percent. It’s good news — low unemployment is typically a leading indicator of a strong U.S. economy. 

But there’s a much darker side to a tight job market: Companies that can’t find (or afford) the people they need are hiring migrant children to fill the void. It’s not just illegal — it’s shameful and inexcusable. …

The White House has apparently known about the growing issue of child migrant labor. HHS has even settled lawsuits with internal whistleblowers who have tried to call attention to it. These settlements should be a wake-up call for the Biden administration to lead and bring the full force of our government to stop the unlawful and inhumane hiring of migrant youth in America.  

America’s EV aspirations are putting human lives at risk

By Dr. Lyndon Haviland

March 28, 2023


U.S. companies that still source cobalt from Congo are turning a blind eye to the human rights abuses that support the production of many of their products. Many companies tout their environmental, social and governance (ESG) practices, but they ignore the well-documented realities of industrial and artisanal mining. Meanwhile, the public is largely unaware of the true cost of the phones we use every day, the computers we work on every day and the electric vehicles we may soon drive every day. Our elected leaders need to adopt new policies to ensure these companies act responsibly. …

We have laws in America that prohibit abusive labor practices. Yet at the same time, we are enabling the abuse and mistreatment of hundreds of thousands of people to accelerate our vision of an EV future.

Aren’t we better than this?

Regardless of income, Black women face death to give birth in America

By Dr. Lyndon Haviland

March 1, 2023


recent study from the National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) found that the wealthiest women and their infants are more likely to have better childbirth outcomes than those who are not. Unless they’re Black, that is, where new statistics reveal a disproportionate impact on people of color, regardless of income level. …

Experts cite the effects of systemic racism regardless of economic status. Black women encounter “untoward experiences” and face bias by medical professionals, conscious or unconscious. Some of these patients express concerns that their pain won’t be taken seriously. Others fear hospital security may be called based simply on the color of their skin.  

These experiences deny pregnant Black women — those able to pay — from receiving the care they deserve. We can’t ignore it; we must listen, learn and do the necessary work to minimize this community’s unacceptably high risk of pregnancy complications. 

The Inflation Reduction Act alone won’t lower prescription drug costs

By Dr. Lyndon Haviland

February 9, 2023


People are choosing between paying for essential medications and putting food on their tables. The Biden administration took steps last year to control runaway prescription drug costs as part of the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA). But many of the bill’s provisions fall short, and some are years away from helping Americans gain access to drugs at a reasonable cost. …

President Biden should be applauded for doing more than any other president in recent history to try and address the issue of skyrocketing prescription drug prices. The Inflation Reduction Act is an important start — but the problem is nowhere close to being solved.  

Lawmakers must continue to push for faster reductions in prescription drug prices and create incentives for health insurers to cover the widest array of pharmaceutical options on their formularies. Then, and only then, will we have a strong reason to celebrate.