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Pandemic Fears: What the AIDS Battle Should Teach Us About COVID-19

By ANISH KOKA, MD

As the globe faces a novel, highly transmissible, lethal virus, I am most struck by a medicine cabinet that is embarrassingly empty for doctors in this battle.  This means much of the debate centers on mitigation of spread of the virus.  Tempers flare over discussions on travel bans, social distancing, and self quarantines, yet the inescapable fact remains that the medical community can do little more than support the varying fractions of patients who progress from mild to severe and life threatening disease.  This isn’t meant to minimize the massive efforts brought to bear to keep patients alive by health care workers but those massive efforts to support failing organs in the severely ill are in large part because we lack any effective therapy to combat the virus.  It is akin to taking care of patients with bacterial infections in an era before antibiotics, or HIV/AIDS in an era before anti-retroviral therapy.  

It should be a familiar feeling for at least one of the leading physicians charged with managing the current crisis – Dr. Anthony Fauci.  Dr. Fauci started as an immunologist at the NIH in the 1960s and quickly made breakthroughs in previously fatal diseases marked by an overactive immune response.  Strange reports of a new disease that was sweeping through the gay community in the early 1980’s caused him to shift focus to join the great battle against the AIDS epidemic. 

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Still Fighting the Wrong Wars

By KIM BELLARD

What do the coronavirus and Navy ships have in common?  For that matter, what do our military spending and our healthcare spending have in common?  More than you might think, and it boils down to this: we spend too much for too little, in large part because we tend to always be fighting the wrong wars.  

Photo by STR/AFT via Getty Images

I started thinking about this a couple weeks ago due to a WSJ article about the U.S. Navy’s “aging and fragmented technology.”  An internal Navy strategy memo warned that the Navy is “under cyber siege” by foreign adversaries, leaking information “like a sieve.”  It grimly pointed out:

Our adversaries gain an advantage in cyberspace through guerrilla tactics within our defensive perimeters.  Once inside, malign actors steal, destroy and/or modify critical data and information. 

This is the Navy, after all, that proudly tried to modernize by installing touch screen technology on some of its ships, only to have the disaster that hit the USS McClain.  Its vaunted Integrated Bridge and Navigation System was, ProPublica found, “was a welter of buttons, gauges and software that, poorly understood and not surprisingly misused, helped guide 10 sailors to their deaths.”  And that wasn’t the only technology-enabled naval disaster in recent years.

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