In an interview with PharmaShots, Marc Meachem, Head of US External Affairs at ViiV Healthcare shared his views on the company’s approach towards the community. He also shed light on the grants and funding received for the betterment of HIV patients.
- ViiV Healthcare is doubling its community investments in 2021 with the goal of disrupting the enduring racial & economic disparities in HIV and accelerating the response in the communities most disproportionately affected
- The company will support community groups by using cultural interventions to inform and engage communities and decrease stigma
- Throughout 2021, ViiV will be announcing grant opportunities for organizations focusing on key populations if we are to end the HIV epidemic in the US, including Black gay, bisexual and queer men; cis- and trans-gender women of color; Latinx men and youth; with a geographic focus on the South
Tuba: Put some light on how ViiV is expanding its commitment to people living with HIV?
Marc: ViiV Healthcare is the only pharmaceutical company focused solely on HIV, and our commitment to leaving no one living with HIV behind is reflected in every aspect of our business even beyond developing innovative new medicines.
ViiV Healthcare is doubling our community investments in 2021 with the goal of disrupting the enduring racial and economic disparities in HIV and accelerating the response in the communities most disproportionately affected. We will do this by:
- supporting community groups to disrupt disparities and accelerate the HIV response
- using cultural interventions to inform and engage communities and decrease stigma
Throughout 2021, we will be announcing grant opportunities for organizations focusing on key populations if we are to end the HIV epidemic in the US, including: Black gay, bisexual and queer men; cis- and trans-gender women of color; Latinx men and youth; with a geographic focus on the South.
Tuba: What are the different strategies ViiV is working in supporting the community?
Marc: We believe that effective interventions must be community centered. That means that the questions, issues and solutions are crafted with input from people living with HIV along with stakeholders from the communities where they live and seek care. Community is at the center of everything we do from gathering insights to activation – all of this is done together with the community in a stepwise approach:
- We Listen. Seeking insights and understanding to foster collaboration and action.
- We Activate. Creating new initiatives and funding community projects where there are the greatest disparities, while connecting individuals and organizations to strengthen networks and services.
- We Amplify. Sharing insights and knowledge to advance the field and drive community solutions.
- We Sustain. Strengthening leaders, organizations and communities to build and expand local community resources.
We utilize a unique suite of tools; ethnographic research; storytelling gathering; community listening and cultural interventions (like the play As Much As I Can, Being Seen podcast, and Take My Hand spoken word project) that reach people in more authentic ways than standard awareness campaigns.
Tuba: Can we have a glance at different programs that ViiV is working on for serving the HIV community?
Marc: We recognize that not everyone living with HIV shares the same experiences, so we tailor our programs.
In February we released a report, When We Feel Whole, highlighting findings from the first phase of our place-based initiative called accelerate. This report is really a roadmap of how to approach the work through a community-centered lens. The first phase of the accelerate Initiative was focused on Black gay and bisexual men in Baltimore, MD, and Jackson, MS. That same month, we issued a call for proposals to help bring the program to more Black gay men nationally who are disproportionately affected by HIV.
Accelerate was launched in response to two countervailing forces: the promise of the standard of HIV prevention and care and the persistent disparities experienced in Black communities, even more pronounced among gay and bisexual men. When We Feel Whole, reflects upon learnings from the work we did in Baltimore, MD and Jackson, MS to focus on closing the gaps in prevention, treatment and care for Black gay, bisexual and other men who have sex with men in two areas hardest hit by HIV—one of the first initiatives of its kind. The report shares lessons learned around 1) designing,activating and sustaining place-based initiatives to address health disparities and innovation; and 2) deploying innovations and disruptions to reduce individual- and community-level stigma.
To build on the momentum of the first phase of this program, through our recently announced funding opportunity, we plan to bring accelerate to new cities as part of our $20M commitment to scale up resources to support those disproportionately affected by HIV.
Tuba: Unveils the grants and funding you have received for the betterment of HIV patients.
Marc: At ViiV Healthcare, we are focused on giving. Our main priority is to scale up the resources we’re providing to community through funding, leadership and capabilities building, technical and operating assistance and support to help them address barriers to HIV care – whatever they may be.
Tuba: What is your geographical focus to provide HIV treatments? Which country needs more attention in providing treatments for HIV?
Marc: ViiV Healthcare is a global pharmaceutical company focused on leaving no person living with HIV behind, regardless of location. So for us, it’s not a question of who needs more but how do we ensure that the standard of care reaches every person living with HIV – regardless of their age or geographic origin.
It can be easy to make assumptions about where there may be less need, but the reality is the US has one the worst HIV outcomes in the OECD countries. Our US teams are keenly focused on making sure innovation is brought in every approach to people living with HIV in the US. According to a 2019 CDC issue brief, the South now experiences the greatest burden of HIV and deaths of any US region and lags in providing quality HIV prevention services and care. We saw the signs of this geographic disparity in our first year of ViiV Healthcare and established our Positive Action Southern Initiative in 2010. This fund supports linkage to care and wrap-around adherence services to help people in the South stay in care.
Tuba: Highlights the positive actions of ViiV Healthcare in serving adolescents, children, girls & women. Also, put some light on Gay & transgender community.
Marc: We learned through our ethnographic research that women, particularly Women of Color, living with HIV are heavily impacted by isolation from their family and friends, service providers, and the larger cultural discourse around women’s health and wellness. ViiV Healthcare was the first pharmaceutical company to design a national platform focused on the needs of Women of Color, including Transgender women with Positive Action for Women. This fund supports community partnerships that help link women to networks of care to break down isolation and develop plans that address stigma.
In 2019, 1 in 5 new HIV diagnoses in the U.S. were among young people aged 13-24 and only about half knew their status. Our Positive Action for Youth funding stream, and associated programs like the US Conference on HIV/AIDS Youth Scholars with NMACprogram help support and develop the next generation of young leaders in HIV for a group who hasn’t known a world without the disease.
Tuba: What are the challenges you faced in serving the patients with HIV globally?
Marc: Too often our systems and experts (healthcare, education, local government) are not informed by, nor sufficiently in tune with, communities they purport to serve. People experiencing disparities need to be part of the response. Supporting local organizations that are truly reflective of the communities they serve can reset patterns of neglect for certain communities – and rebuild trust, something that is needed now more than ever.
Main Image Source: Office on Women’s Health
Marc Meachem is the Head of US External Affairs at ViiV Healthcare. He has held leadership roles in various therapeutic areas across commercial development, marketing, and communications.