This is How ViiV Healthcare is Improving HIV Care for MSM and Transgender People
ViiV Healthcare today announced the launch of a new initiative designed to support and inform the global effort to alleviate the impact of HIV and AIDS among men who have sex with men (MSM) and transgender populations around the world.
Through Positive Action, ViiV Healthcare has committed to invest £2 million per year to encourage MSM and transgender community-led interventions to reduce stigma and discrimination based on sexual orientation, gender identity/expression and/or HIV status. The first phase of the new program will cover a period of two years.
With the ultimate goal of enabling MSM and transgender individuals around the world to safely seek culturally competent HIV care and services, the program will support these communities as they develop their capacity to lead, participate in policy-making and address the severe health disparities and health service access issues affecting MSM and transgender individuals.
“The Positive Action MSM and Transgender Programme aims to address persistent and pervasive challenges that have a profound impact on the lives of MSM and transgender individuals worldwide,” said Juan Jacobo Hernández Chávez, Executive Director of Colectivo Sol and Advisory Board Chair for the Positive Action MSM and Transgender Programme. “By focusing on and empowering MSM and transgender communities, the initiative represents a critical step in the global effort to halt and reverse the HIV epidemic among key populations.”
The initiative is designed to direct resources to where needs are the greatest. MSM and transgender populations are often stigmatized and isolated; they have been understudied, under-resourced and inadequately supported:
- Globally, MSM and transgender individuals are among those at highest risk of HIV infection.[i] These groups are an often under-appreciated population of the global epidemic and facing decreasing and/or limited funding from local or international donors.
- Prevalence rates among MSM and transgender populations are consistently higher than for men of reproductive age in the general population.[ii]
- The World Bank estimates that fewer than one in ten MSM and transgender individual worldwide have access to the most basic package of preventive interventions.[ii]
- Scant data on transgender individuals reveals transgender women are 48.8 times more likely to be infected with HIV than the general population. [iii]
- Globally, young people comprise over 40 percent of new HIV infections and many of them are MSM and transgender individuals.[iv]
“Without a dedicated focus on the needs of MSM and transgender communities, who still endure significant stigma, discrimination and health disparities, we cannot achieve the worldwide goal of reducing HIV transmission,” said Michael N. Joyner, Director of Positive Action and Patient Advocacy at ViiV Healthcare. “This programme seeks to promote interventions that will confront these challenges head on and empower MSM and transgender communities. It is an effort that is consistent with the values our Positive Action Programme has promoted for more than two decades.”
Since 1992, the Positive Action Programme has been working with community-based organisations around the globe to tackle the stigma and discrimination faced by vulnerable populations affected by or infected with the HIV virus. With the new Positive Action MSM and Transgender Programme, ViiV Healthcare is again expanding its investment in those individuals at highest risk and most vulnerable to HIV infection.
The Programme will take several approaches to support MSM and transgender populations, in addition to formally launching the publication of the first Call for Proposals. This initial programme is for a series of small grant applications – covering a two-year period – with funding amounts up to £25,000/year. The Programme Advisory Board, comprised of leaders from the global MSM and Transgender sector and HIV community, will meet to consider project funding under the agreed programme areas and funding priorities.
For information about how to submit a proposal and to learn more about the Positive Action MSM and Transgender Programme, visit www.viivhealthcare.com.
[i] Beyrer et al. Global epidemiology of HIV infection in men who have sex with men. Figure 1. Lancet. 2012 July 28; 380(9839): 367–377
[ii] The World Bank Report, The Global HIV Epidemics among Men Who Have Sex with Men, 2011
[iii] Baral SD, et al. Worldwide burden of HIV in transgender women: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Lancet Infect Dis. 2013:13:214-22
[iv]World Health Organisation and UNAIDS. Technical Guidance Note for Global Fund HIV Proposals: Prevention, Treatment, Care and Support for Young People, May 2010http://www.who.int/hiv/pub/toolkits/YoungPeople_Techical_Guidance_GlobalFundR10_May2010.pdf. Accessed 5 March 2015.
How healthcare can safeguard itself against cyberthreats
One of the most fundamental lessons from the COVID crisis is that health should always be a priority. In a similar fashion to the human body that frequently fights off viruses and foreign invaders that intend to cause it harm, the sector itself is now a prime target for another type of external threat: cyberattacks.
The figures speak for themselves: between December and January this year, hospitals in the UK were at 89% capacity, with 7,000 fewer available beds than there usually are. As the pandemic increased pressure on hospitals, clinics, and research facilities to create a treatment for patients globally, it has left the sector exposed to hackers who, like a virus, have been targeting it relentlessly and evolving their tactics.
From patient records being held ransom, to fake emails claiming to originate from the UN WHO, the NHS, or vaccine centres, through to attacks on the cold supply chain to find out the secret formula of the COVID vaccine, the healthcare industry is facing constant cyberattacks and struggling to cope. This threat is unlikely to go away anytime soon – and as such, the industry needs to take a proactive, preventative stance to stay safe in a dynamic digital world.
The responsive nature of healthcare – particularly of hospitals – means that efficiency is crucial to the industry’s standard operations. To support this, the sector has been embracing technological advancements that can improve the quality of work, enabling staff to meet pressing deadlines, and enhancing patient care. For example, the industry has been digitising records and improving its ways of working through digital means over the past few years.
This shift is critical to offer high quality patient care; yet, it also means the sector has become more dependent on IT, which can come with a risk if cybersecurity processes employed are deemed as inadequate.
Without the correct security measures in place, the desired efficiency gains realised, can be easily lost in a heartbeat. Simply put, an elementary glitch in the system can have a tremendous ripple effect on many areas, from accessing patient records and conducting scans, to maintaining physical security and protecting the intellectual property of experimental treatment development.
To prevent this, healthcare organisations need to ensure they’re considering cybersecurity as part of their overall digital transformation strategy – and setting the right foundations to create a culture where safety goes hand in hand with patient care.
Before implementing cybersecurity process, healthcare organisations need to assess the potential risks they face. Depending on how much confidential data the trust has, where it is stored, who has access to it and via which means, the cybersecurity strategy and associated solutions will change.
It’s fair to say that a medical device start-up where all employees have a corporate-sanctioned laptop and access data via a VPN will have radically different needs to a large hospital with hundreds of frontline workers connecting to the hospital’s Wi-Fi using their personal device.
These requirements will pale by comparison to a global pharmaceutical giant with offices in multiple locations, a large R&D department researching new treatments for complex diseases and a fully integrated supply chain. Considering the existing setup and what the organisations is looking to achieve with its digital transformation strategy will therefore have an immediate impact on the cybersecurity strategy.
Despite this, there are fundamentals that any organisation should implement:
Review and test your back-up policy to ensure it is thorough and sufficient – By checking that the organisation’s back-up is running smoothly, IT teams can limit any risks of disruption in the midst of an incident and of losing data permanently.
In our recent State of Email Security report, we found that six out of ten organisations have been victims of ransomware in 2020. As a result, afflicted organisations have lost an average of six days to downtime. One third of organisations even admitted that they failed to get their data back, despite paying the ransom. In the healthcare industry, this could mean losing valuable patient records or data related to new treatments – two areas the sector cannot afford to be cavalier about.
Conduct due diligence across the organisation’s supply chain – Healthcare organisations should review their ways of working with partners, providers and regulatory institutions they work with in order to prevent any weak link in their cybersecurity chain. Without this due diligence, organisations leave themselves exposed to the risks of third party-led incidents.
Roll out mandatory cybersecurity awareness training - Healthcare organisations shouldn’t neglect the training and awareness of their entire staff – including frontline workers who may not access the corporate network on a regular basis. According to our State of Email Security report, only one fifth of organisations carry out ongoing cyber awareness training.
This suggests it is not widely considered as a fundamental part of most organisations cyber-resilience strategy, despite the fact many employees rely on their organisation’s corporate network to work. By providing systematic training, healthcare organisations can help workers at all levels better understand the current cyberthreats they face, how they could impact their organisation, the role they play in defending the networks, and develop consistent, good cybersecurity hygiene habits to limit the risks of incidents.
Consider a degree of separation – Information and Operational Technology (IT and OT) networks should be separated.
Although mutually supported and reliance on each other, employees shouldn’t be accessing one via the other. This should be complemented by a considered tried and tested contingency and resiliency plan that allows crucial services to function unabated should there be a compromise. Similarly, admin terminals should not have internet access to afford a degree of hardening and protection for these critical accounts.
As the sector becomes a common target for fraudulent and malicious activity, putting cybersecurity at the core of the organisation’s operations is critical. It will help limit the risks of disruption due to cyberattacks, reduce time spent by the cybersecurity team to resolve easily avoidable errors, and ensure that institutions can deliver patient care, safe in the knowledge that their networks are safe.
Fighting future threats
With technology continuing to change the face of healthcare, the surface area and vectors available for attacks by malicious actors is constantly increasing. With the introduction of apps, networked monitoring devices, and a need for communication, the attack vector is ever expanding, a trend that needs to be monitored and secured against.
To prevent any damage to patients, staff, or the organisation they are responsible for, healthcare leaders must put security front and centre of their digital transformation strategy. Only then can the sector harness the full benefits of technology. Doing this should include implementing cybersecurity awareness training to challenge misconceptions around security, encourage conversation, and to ensure employee knowledge of the security basics and threats faced.
This ultimately allows healthcare organisations to do what they do best: provide the highest standard of patient care, safe in the knowledge that their operations, patients, and data are safe.