Adolescents now represent the only group of people living with HIV with an increasing rate of mortality, and HIV has become the second leading cause of death among adolescents worldwide. However, many gaps remain in our understanding of how to improve their HIV treatment outcomes. In December 2014, ViiV Healthcare gave a new grant to amfAR’s TREAT Asia program to launch a series of activities, titled Making the Adolescents Count: A New Agenda for HIV Research and Leadership in Asia, that aim to improve adolescents’ treatment outcomes in the Asia-Pacific.
ViiV Healthcare’s Scott Purdon (far right) and Katy Hayward (third from left) with members of the HIV-NAT/Thai Red Cross AIDS Research Centre pediatric HIV clinical care and research team (Photo: Katy Hayward)
ViiV has been partnering with TREAT Asia for over ten years on a range of projects, and throughout that time Scott Purdon, director of access and government affairs at ViiV, has worked closely with the TREAT Asia team to support innovative research, education, and training activities that have benefited children and adults living with HIV, other advocates, clinicians, and researchers. After nearly two decades at ViiV, Purdon is stepping down at the end of January. TREAT Asia talked with him about ViiV’s history of working to improve HIV treatment and care in the region and TREAT Asia’s new adolescent research project.
TREAT Asia Report: ViiV has been a generous supporter of TREAT Asia since the beginning of the program. Why do you think it’s important to support HIV treatment and research in the Asia-Pacific?
Scott Purdon: ViiV has a commitment to improving access to HIV education, care, and treatment for all people living with HIV. As a pharmaceutical company, our core business is research and development of new HIV medicines; however, we know that it is imperative that physicians and healthcare staff have up-to-date information on our medicines and HIV treatment in general. We therefore support academic institutions, research organizations, medical education organizations, community based-organizations, and non-governmental organizations that provide HIV expertise, and clinical research studies specific to geographic locations.
The Asia-Pacific is a significant region that contains a myriad of HIV responses and differing qualities of care and treatment. TREAT Asia represents one of the key research, training, and advocacy organizations globally, and one of the most prominent in the Asia-Pacific. I have worked with amfAR and TREAT Asia since TREAT Asia’s inception and am very proud of our partnership. I have witnessed TREAT Asia build a leading network of research sites conducting world-class clinical studies and generating data specific to the diverse communities living in the region. TREAT Asia’s vision and delivery of data and training plays a major part in reducing the inequalities of care in the region.
TA Report: Why does ViiV support pediatric and adolescent care in particular?
Purdon: Pediatric and adolescent HIV care is an area that should be a medical priority, but which is currently under-resourced. Globally, it is one of the key unmet needs in the HIV arena, with far fewer infants and children accessing care than adults. Furthermore, we still don’t fully understand the impact of HIV and HIV medicines on the development of children, and we are increasingly aware of the challenge of retaining children in HIV care beyond their teenage years. ViiV has worked extensively with organizations that seek to improve clinical outcomes for infants, children, and adolescents. Through its databases and relationships throughout the region, TREAT Asia is ideally positioned to improve these outcomes in the Asia-Pacific.
TA Report: This is the third TREAT Asia pediatric research program supported by ViiV. What do you find exciting about this particular group of projects?
Much of the pediatric focus of the HIV community has been on the prevention of mother-to-child HIV transmission, and the effort has demonstrated unprecedented success. However, as the children who are vertically and horizontally infected become older, it is very apparent that we do not understand how many of these adolescents are staying in care and treatment and how many are virologically suppressed.
The new grant seeks to ensure that a) young people are able to advocate for equitable access to care and treatment, b) data on young people’s needs regarding healthcare outcomes are analyzed and documented, and c) future demands caused by viral resistance and the need for more tolerable, long-lasting regimens that may improve young people’s adherence are projected and quantified. In addition, the grant aims to maintain and improve advocacy to support the right of all people living with HIV to access affordable and sustainable treatment—including young MSM and transgender individuals who often experience stigma and discrimination within the healthcare system and their communities.