Isolation, depression, anxiety, anger and shame are just a few of the feelings initially experienced by people who have been diagnosed with HIV – the virus that can cause AIDS – according to the National Institute of Mental Health.
Then there are the other challenges, such as not being able to care for yourself or stay on a medication schedule, due to a wide range of factors.
But a mobile health platform developed at the University of Virginia that is being licensed by a UVA Licensing & Ventures Group company – with guidance from its Entrepreneurs in Residence program – is making the lives of people with HIV around the world easier.
At least that’s the evaluation of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
Recently, the Health Resources and Services Administration, a Health Department agency that oversees the federally funded Ryan White/HIV program, recognized the platform, PositiveLinks, as a “best practice.”
The platform was developed at UVA by Dr. Rebecca Dillingham, an infectious disease physician, and Karen Ingersoll, a clinical psychologist. It is available to health care organizations globally under the name PL Cares through Warm Health Technology, a Charlottesville-based startup company founded in 2018. Licensing and Ventures Group Executive in Residence Helen Boyd serves as chief operating officer.
“We are thrilled for Rebecca, Karen and the entire team at Warm Health Technology,” UVA Licensing and Ventures Group Executive Director Richard W. Chylla said. “This is a platform that is helping so many people around the world, which aligns with our core mission here at LVG.
“Additionally, this shines a light on the value of our Entrepreneur in Residence Program. This is exactly the type of impact that was envisioned when the program was started three years ago.”
Supported by UVA’s Office of Economic Development, the Entrepreneur in Residence Program offers UVA faculty innovators access to seasoned professionals with experience in early stage technology commercialization and new venture creation.
Boyd has been an Executive in Residence since 2019.
“The LVG executives in residence come from a variety of backgrounds and provide a wealth of real-world experience that can be applied to strengthen the ideas and inventions developed at UVA,” Boyd said. “While an academic setting is a great environment for research and the creation of new ideas and products, there are so many steps to consider if you want to make your invention available to others beyond the walls of UVA.
“Whether someone is looking to create a start-up company to commercialize their invention, get input on what investors are looking for, or decide whether their idea would be better suited to a nonprofit setting, the EIRs can provide advice and help develop a plan for moving forward.”
PositiveLinks is deployed by clinics or community-based organizations to connect people with HIV to a digital support community. The client-facing app helps people with a new diagnosis of HIV become engaged with care and helps people at risk of dropping out of care overcome barriers, including geographic or social isolation. From the app, people can access HIPAA-compliant patient dashboards, secure messaging with clinic providers, patient lab records, and social support from other people with HIV.
The HRSA recognition follows the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the National Alliance of State & Territorial AIDS Directors including PositiveLinks in their compendia of recommended interventions for the support of people with HIV.
“The fact that HRSA has recognized PositiveLinks as a best practice will help to support requests for funding from any organization that provides care for people with HIV and hopes to include this powerful tool in their box,” Boyd said. “We hope that this endorsement will allow more patients to use the platform and have better long-term health outcomes. They will be able to keep their medication adherence strong, achieve viral suppression and thrive.”