Tribute

Jeannie Wraight
(1968–2021)

In late summer, I received an email from Jeannie Wraight, who had taken a break from writing for A&U. She was eager to dive back in and contributed a piece about food insecurity for people living with HIV/AIDS during the COVID pandemic. She let me know more pitches were on the way. Bring them on, I wrote back enthusiastically.

So, it jolted me to learn that Jeannie Wraight died in late October, on the 28th. Too soon. Didn’t the universe get the memo? She had more to write, more to say, more to do, more jewelry to design, more animals to rescue, more vaccine research to analyze. The world will forever miss her heart and her advocacy. Our condolences go out to her husband, family, and friends.

Like any good health journalist, Jeannie was a stalwart researcher and fearless interviewer. She had attended over seventy-five HIV scientific conferences around the world and generously shared what she learned with readers. She served as the former editor-in-chief and co-founder of HIV and HCV Haven (www.hivhaven.com) and was a blogger and writer for TheBody.com. She also served as a member of the Board of Directors of Health People, a community-based organization in the South Bronx and an advisor to TRW (Teach me to Read and Write), a community-based organization in Kampala, Uganda. A long-time HIV treatment activist, she was a past member of ACT UP NY. She was a co-founder of Nets Against Malaria in Uganda (NAMIUganda).

In her tenure at A&U she often strove to highlight underserved patient populations and novel therapeutics, whether the candidates were being researched at established pharmaceutical companies or small biotechs.

She also covered the HIV vaccine beat in her A&U column, Destination: Cure, which she helmed for almost a decade. Her aim was to provide clarity and cut through the hype and misinformation. In an August 2013 column, she wrote: “It’s time for the formulation of more precise definitions of HIV ‘cures’ to be devised and utilized not only within the HIV scientific community but also to curtail the media from inaccurate ‘cure’ reports.
“Hope is a beautiful thing. False hope can be dangerous and cruel to those hoping to be cured. Shouldn’t we more accurately define a ‘cure’ before counting the cured?”

In May 2020, pre-COVID vaccine, she wanted to make sure we were not distracted from all we needed to do: “For most of the U.S. and all but a few countries around the world, life as we know it has been severely altered by the novel coronavirus, SARS Cov-2. The U.S. is unlikely to return to any resemblance of normalcy until a vaccine is discovered, which will take a year at minimum. Both a vaccine and effective therapeutics against COVID-19 are now the main priorities in medical research. However, we must ensure that the search for HIV cure and remission strategies, as well as an effective HIV vaccine, are not forgotten.”
Jeannie, we will keep your HIV vaccine focus in the forefront of our efforts. We won’t forget. Just as we will never forget you.

—Chael Needle