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US surgeon general declares gun violence a public health crisis

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US surgeon general declares gun violence a public health crisis
News

News

US surgeon general declares gun violence a public health crisis

2024-06-27 03:58 Last Updated At:04:00

WASHINGTON (AP) — The U.S. surgeon general on Tuesday declared gun violence a public health crisis, driven by the fast-growing number of injuries and deaths involving firearms in the country.

The advisory issued by Dr. Vivek Murthy, the nation's top doctor, came as the U.S. grappled with another summer weekend marked by mass shootings that left dozens of people dead or wounded.

“People want to be able to walk through their neighborhoods and be safe," Murthy told The Associated Press in a phone interview. “America should be a place where all of us can go to school, go to work, go to the supermarket, go to our house of worship, without having to worry that that's going to put our life at risk.”

To drive down gun deaths, Murthy calls on the U.S. to ban “assault weapons and large-capacity magazines for civilian use,” introduce universal background checks for purchasing guns, regulate the industry, pass laws that would restrict their use in public spaces and penalize people who fail to safely store their weapons.

None of those suggestions can be implemented nationwide without legislation passed by Congress, which typically recoils at gun control measures. Some state legislatures, however, have enacted or may consider some of the surgeon general's proposals.

Surgeon General Murthy said there is “broad agreement” that gun violence is a problem, citing a poll last year that found most Americans worry at least sometimes that a loved one might be injured by a firearm. More than 48,000 Americans died from gun injuries in 2022.

Doctors quickly praised Murthy's advisory. The American Academy of Family Physicians, for example, has considered gun violence a public health epidemic for over a decade.

“Family physicians have long understood, and have seen first hand, the devastating impact firearm violence has on our patients and the communities we serve,” the group's president, Steven Furr, said in a statement.

Murthy's advisory, however, promises to be controversial with the gun lobby and will certainly incense Republican lawmakers, most of whom opposed his confirmation — twice — to the job over his statements on gun violence.

The National Rifle Association promptly rebuked Murthy's advisory.

“This is an extension of the Biden Administration's war on law-abiding gun owners,” Randy Kozuch, the organization's president, said in a statement on X.

It was the NRA, and Republicans who enjoy the powerful gun lobby's support, that almost derailed Murthy's confirmation as surgeon general a decade ago. Murthy became quieter on the issue of gun violence after his past statements almost cost him the job. He ended up promising the Senate that he did “not intend to use my office as surgeon general as a bully pulpit on gun control.”

Then-President Donald Trump dismissed Murthy in 2017, but President Joe Biden nominated him again to the position in 2021.

Murthy has published warnings about troubling health trends in American life, including loneliness and social media use. In an opinion piece in The New York Times this month, he said social media has contributed to a mental health crisis among the country's young people and asked Congress to require warning labels on social media platforms similar to those on cigarette boxes.

But he also has faced mounting pressure from some doctors and Democratic advocacy groups to speak out more. A group of four former surgeon generals asked the Biden administration to produce a report on the problem in 2022.

“It is now time for us to take this issue out of the realm of politics and put it in the realm of public health, the way we did with smoking more than a half century ago,” Murthy told the AP.

It was a 1964 report from the surgeon general that raised awareness about the dangers of smoking is largely credited with reducing tobacco use and precipitating regulations on the industry.

Murthy now hopes his advisory on guns will shift the conversation, too, on this issue. He has been encouraged by some developments in Congress, including the passage of the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act in 2022 that enhanced background checks for firearms.

A White House report obtained by The Associated Press says that more thorough background checks have stopped roughly 800 sales of firearms to people under age 21. Additionally, more than 500 people, including some linked to transnational cartels and organized crime rings, have been charged with gun trafficking and other crimes under the landmark gun safety legislation.

Children and younger Americans, in particular, are suffering from gun violence, Murthy notes in his advisory called “Firearm Violence: A Public Health Crisis in America.” Suicide by gun rates have increased by nearly 70% for those between the ages of 10 to 14. Children in the U.S. are far more likely to die from gun wounds than children in other countries, the research he gathered shows.

For pediatricians, talking with families about locking up their guns away from their children has become a routine part of well visits, said Benjamin Hoffman, the president of the American Academy of Pediatrics. When children can't get access to a gun, it prevents a large chunk of gun deaths and injuries — accidental shootings and suicides.

“Having access to a firearm for a child who is experiencing a behavioral health crisis is an absolute recipe for the most tragic things you can imagine,” Hoffman said.

Even when children are not direct victims of a gun shooting, they may suffer from mental health blowback of gun violence, the report says. About half of teens in the U.S. worry about a school shooting. And in areas that have been exposed to a fatal shooting at a school, youth antidepressant use jumps by more than 20%.

In addition to new regulations, Murthy calls for an increase in gun violence research and for the health system to promote and educate patients about gun safety and proper storage during checkups.

The headline for this story was corrected to reflect that the surgeon general, Dr. Vivek Murthy, had declared gun violence a public health crisis, rather than a public health emergency. The surgeon general does not have the power to declare a public health emergency. This story also was corrected to reflect that Murthy called for a ban on “assault weapons and large-capacity magazines for civilian use,” not a ban on automatic rifles.

FILE - Surgeon General Vivek Murthy speaks during an Archewell Foundation panel discussion in New York City, Oct. 10, 2023. On Tuesday, June 25, 2024, Murthy, the nation's top doctor, declared gun violence a public health crisis, driven by a growing number of injuries and deaths involving firearms in the country. The advisory came as the U.S. grappled with another weekend marked by mass shootings that left dozens of people dead or wounded. (AP Photo/Ted Shaffrey, File)

FILE - Surgeon General Vivek Murthy speaks during an Archewell Foundation panel discussion in New York City, Oct. 10, 2023. On Tuesday, June 25, 2024, Murthy, the nation's top doctor, declared gun violence a public health crisis, driven by a growing number of injuries and deaths involving firearms in the country. The advisory came as the U.S. grappled with another weekend marked by mass shootings that left dozens of people dead or wounded. (AP Photo/Ted Shaffrey, File)

FOSTER CITY, Calif.--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Jul 22, 2024--

Gilead Sciences, Inc. (Nasdaq: GILD) and the Elton John AIDS Foundation (EJAF) today announced a five-year extension of the RADIAN® partnership to help meet the needs of the most vulnerable key populations in Eastern Europe and Central Asia (EECA) where the HIV epidemic is growing. RADIAN will continue supporting the initiatives of trusted, grassroots organizations who are working to address HIV-related challenges in the region.

This press release features multimedia. View the full release here: https://www.businesswire.com/news/home/20240718867405/en/

While HIV is declining globally, EECA is one of the few regions in the world where the epidemic is getting worse, with new HIV diagnoses and AIDS-related deaths increasing by 20% and 34%, respectively, since 2010. 1 Of the 2.1 million people in EECA living with HIV, 41% are not aware of their HIV status and 50% are not on treatment – way below global 95-95-95-95 targets. 1

“We are committed to ensuring that the EECA region is not left behind because ending the HIV epidemic means ending it for everyone, everywhere,” said Daniel O’Day, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, Gilead Sciences. “During a recent visit to Kazakhstan, I met with RADIAN-supported community leaders who emphasized the importance of doubling down on our collaborative efforts. Over the next five years, RADIAN 2.0 will continue to address the structural drivers of the epidemic, strengthen HIV health systems, and enhance the capacities of local organizations for lasting impact.”

Since RADIAN was launched in 2019 it has had a significant impact on the HIV response in the region, reaching more than 271,000 people with HIV services, providing over 114,000 HIV tests, (re-) initiating over 26,500 people on antiretroviral therapy, and training more than 14,000 frontline workers to reduce stigma and discrimination. 2 These efforts are having an impact on communities most in need, however the situation in the region has escalated dramatically in recent years with the conflict in Ukraine further exacerbating the crisis. 3 Anti-LGBTQ+ legislation, human rights violations, stigma and discrimination are also hindering the HIV response across the region. 4

“At the Elton John AIDS Foundation, we have a long history of supporting people living with or at risk of HIV across Eastern Europe and Central Asia – a region too often overlooked in the global HIV response. Because of insufficient access to HIV testing and effective treatment, 384 people newly acquire HIV every day in EECA and 120 people die of AIDS-related causes,” said Anne Aslett, CEO of the Elton John AIDS Foundation. 1 “We are incredibly proud of our RADIAN partnership with Gilead Sciences, which is genuinely helping to turn the tide on the HIV epidemic in the region. Over the next few years, RADIAN will continue to help meet the needs of people most affected by HIV in EECA through innovative, scalable solutions and we are incredibly grateful to our resilient and determined local partners who share our ambition of leaving nobody behind.”

Over the next five years, RADIAN will extend its efforts to support collaborative, community-based initiatives to help meet the needs of the most vulnerable key populations across EECA, including people who use drugs, men who have sex with men, sex workers and Transgender people.

RADIAN will also expand its geographic reach to include countries hosting refugees fleeing Ukraine, including Hungary, Poland, Slovakia and Germany, where there is an acute need for additional HIV services. Language barriers, social isolation and internalized stigma are all greatly hindering the ability of refugees living with or at risk of HIV to access the treatment and care they urgently need. 5 RADIAN’s geographic expansion will provide more support to these vulnerable communities, improving access to HIV services and supporting their mental and social wellbeing.

RADIAN will continue to build on successes and learnings from the first five years of the partnership to help close gaps in HIV testing, prevention and care. Additionally, to support innovations that increase the effectiveness of the HIV response in EECA, RADIAN will introduce an innovation fund. The fund will accept creative applications on a rolling basis to allow for flexibility of funding opportunities as innovations emerge.

About RADIAN

RADIAN is a ground-breaking partnership between Gilead Sciences and the Elton John AIDS Foundation that supports grassroots organizations and partners in Eastern Europe and Central Asia (EECA) to meaningfully address the HIV-related challenges in the region. By supporting the delivery of community-based services and health systems, and by addressing structural barriers impeding the HIV response, RADIAN helps address the needs of key populations and marginalized communities – including people who use drugs, men who have sex with men, sex workers and Transgender people. RADIAN works closely with local leaders and community partners – RADIAN Changemakers and grantees – who are committed to creating change in the region through on-the-ground initiatives tackling the unique challenges of the HIV epidemic in EECA.

To learn more about how RADIAN is working to end HIV in EECA, visit www.radianhiv.org.

About Gilead Sciences

Gilead Sciences, Inc. is a biopharmaceutical company that has pursued and achieved breakthroughs in medicine for more than three decades, with the goal of creating a healthier world for all people. The company is committed to advancing innovative medicines to prevent and treat life-threatening diseases, including HIV, viral hepatitis, COVID-19, and cancer. Gilead operates in more than 35 countries worldwide, with headquarters in Foster City, California.

For 35 years, Gilead has been a leading innovator in the field of HIV, driving advances in treatment, prevention and cure research. Gilead researchers have developed 12 HIV medications, including the first single-tablet regimen to treat HIV, the first antiretroviral for pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) to help reduce new HIV infections, and the first long-acting injectable HIV treatment medication administered twice-yearly. Our advances in medical research have helped to transform HIV into a treatable, preventable, chronic condition for millions of people.

For more information on Gilead Sciences, please visit the company’s website at www.gilead.com.

About Elton John AIDS Foundation

The Elton John AIDS Foundation was established in 1992 and is one of the leading independent AIDS organizations in the world. The Foundation's mission is simple: an end to the AIDS epidemic. The Elton John AIDS Foundation is committed to overcoming the stigma, discrimination and neglect that keep us from ending AIDS. With the mobilization of our network of generous supporters and partners, we fund local experts across four continents to challenge discrimination, prevent infections, and provide treatment as well as influencing governments to end AIDS. www.eltonjohnaidsfoundation.org

1 Data provided by UNAIDS (2024), https://www.unaids.org/en
2 Data provided by the Elton John AIDS Foundation – June 2024
3 Jonas, Kai J. et al. The war refugees from Ukraine: an HIV epidemic is fleeing as well. AIDS 36(12):p 1745-1746, October 1, 2022. | DOI: 10.1097/QAD.0000000000003271, last accessed June 2024
4 Schweitzer AM et al, Addressing HIV stigma in healthcare, community, and legislative settings in Central and Eastern Europe, 2023. Available at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC10714556/, last accessed June 2024
5 European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control, Migrant health: HIV testing and counselling in migrant populations and ethnic minorities in EU/EEA/EFTA Member States. Available at: https://www.ecdc.europa.eu/sites/default/files/media/en/publications/Publications/1108_TER_HIV_in_migrants.pdf, last accessed July 2024.

Anne Aslett (CEO, Elton John AIDS Foundation) and Daniel O'Day (Chairman and CEO, Gilead Sciences) visit RADIAN Model City in Kazakhstan. (Photo: Business Wire)

Anne Aslett (CEO, Elton John AIDS Foundation) and Daniel O'Day (Chairman and CEO, Gilead Sciences) visit RADIAN Model City in Kazakhstan. (Photo: Business Wire)

Anne Aslett (CEO, Elton John AIDS Foundation) and Daniel O'Day (Chairman and CEO, Gilead Sciences) visit RADIAN Model City in Kazakhstan. (Photo: Business Wire)

Anne Aslett (CEO, Elton John AIDS Foundation) and Daniel O'Day (Chairman and CEO, Gilead Sciences) visit RADIAN Model City in Kazakhstan. (Photo: Business Wire)

Anne Aslett (CEO, Elton John AIDS Foundation) and Daniel O'Day (Chairman and CEO, Gilead Sciences) visit RADIAN Model City in Kazakhstan. (Photo: Business Wire)

Anne Aslett (CEO, Elton John AIDS Foundation) and Daniel O'Day (Chairman and CEO, Gilead Sciences) visit RADIAN Model City in Kazakhstan. (Photo: Business Wire)

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