Drug maker Merck is donating 245-thousand dollars to the School of Medicine at the University of California, Riverside, to combat how isolation from the Covid 19 pandemic and government lockdowns is impacting people who have HIV.
The two-year grant from Merck will pay for a study starting in January 2021, involving people living with HIV (PLWH) in Riverside County, Los Angeles, and the Tampa Bay area in Florida.
“High levels of social isolation, anxiety, and depression during this pandemic differentiates PLWH from others,” said Epidemiologist Brandon Brown, an Associate Professor and the grant’s principal investigator. “We are interested in finding out ways to keep people engaged with each other and with care, while isolated, and identifying low-intensity methods for reducing depression.”
Brown’s team will develop ideas for a virtual village, including whom the village will include, how it will connect HIV patients with each other, and health care providers, and what the most useful content would be for users.
The platform, accessible on smartphones and computers, will be low-tech so people with older computers and limited technological skills can access it.
“Seniors aging in place with HIV can log into the virtual village, connect with peers, share resources with one another, access providers and community-based organizations, and stay socially connected in this time where we are all physically distanced,” Brown said.
U C Riverside School of Medicine, Associate Professor Brandon Brown.
Photo from University of California at Riverside