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US Postal Changes Affect HIV Medication Delivery

by Kevin Schattenkirk

EDGE Media Network Contributor

Tuesday September 1, 2020

While changes to Postal Service delivery might be inconvenient, those changes are likely to have the biggest impact on Americans who rely on the service as a means of receiving necessary medications — whether they be for high blood pressure, anxiety, depression, or treating HIV.

"In 2019, almost 200,000 million drugs were sent by mail," AIDS United reported, also stating that, "the coronavirus pandemic has increased the use of mail-order prescription services by approximately 21%.">

As noted by AIDS United:

"The Veterans Affairs health system has noted recent significant delays in veterans receiving their medications on time. Approximately 30,000 veterans were living with HIV nationwide according to 2018 government data. To date 80% of all veterans receive their medications by mail which includes those with HIV, while 20% of veterans pick up their medications at VA medical facilities. News reports have stated that some Veterans are experiencing up to two-week delays in getting their medication by mail delivery.

In 2016, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention approximately 50% of those living with HIV were over the age of 50 with approximately 50% of seniors, receiving their medication through the mail as well. They are in a high-risk category if they do not receive their medication on time."

By May 2020, as the pandemic had worsened nationwide, the newly appointed Postmaster General Louis DeJoy — an appointee with ties to President Trump and other prominent Republicans — instituted changes such as reducing and removing mail processing equipment and mailboxes nationwide, and pre-approval of overtime work for postal carriers. Also, "if a mail carrier's route would delay their work for that day, they were ordered to leave the mail at the distribution center and deliver it the next day."

While the implications for the upcoming Presidential election are staggering, consequently, many who rely on the postal service to receive medications — such as military veterans, those living with HIV, and more — have been impacted by DeJoy's changes to delivery. Because other services such as UPS and FedEx do not generally deliver in rural areas, or add additional delivery charges if they do, alternatives to the Postal Service are few. This will put many lives at risk, resulting in unnecessary hospitalizations and deaths that could have been avoided.

An opinion piece by Postal Service worker Muriel Ponder elaborates on the dangers of dismantling and discarding mail processing machines that, at her facility alone "process over a million pieces of mail a day." Ponder paints a picture of facilities in disarray, no longer able to use the technology that helps mail carrier work more efficiently. She also does not expect those machines to return. The impact on consumers who rely on the post office for medications could be devastating.

DeJoy has said that he will not reverse any changes that have already taken place. Despite pausing further policy changes, postal workers have reported continued delays and backups at Postal service facilities.

Last week, CNN reported that Chief Judge Stanley Bastian of the US District Court for the Eastern District of Washington has ordered the Trump Administration to provide, within 10 days, answers and evidence about the policy changes implemented in the Postal Service. Judge Bastian urged everyone involved to act in the best interests of American voters, and essentially cautioned against prolonged litigation that could adversely impact the election.

Kevin Schattenkirk is an ethnomusicologist and pop music aficionado.

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