ViiV Healthcare, a global specialist HIV company dedicated to delivering advances in treatment and care for people living with HIV, was looking for new approaches to support the most vulnerable groups of patients affected by HIV in Belgium. Our work focused on Sub-Saharan African migrants living with HIV in Belgium. This growing subgroup of the HIV-affected population lacked a strong support network amongst their peers, facing strong stigmatization and taboo in their communities around the topic of HIV. Without this network, their communication regarding their concerns on treatment was limited to their time spent at the care centers and interactions with patient support organisations, if any. We identified a huge need to improve the communication process between healthcare professionals and migrant patients around HIV treatment and to empower both to address the cultural, linguistic, and other barriers to effective communication.
We worked in a collaborative way with ViiV Healthcare and key stakeholders in the patient and medical community to address this challenge in a innovative new approach driven by the patient community. We worked closely with medical professionals and patient support organisations to understand the needs of the community and co-create a program that would have a significant impact.
Out of this collaborative approach, we launched the ‘Together We Understand’ program to co-create new tools to improve the communication process between healthcare professionals and patients around HIV treatment. The program was a co-creative process led by a group of 25 volunteer migrant women living with HIV together with medical professionals, patient organisations in Brussels, a graphic designer, Oksigen Lab and i-propeller. This multi-stakeholder approach enabled us to find new ways to empower both the patient and the healthcare professional to think creatively about addressing challenges in effectively communicating important medical information.
Our work together resulted in the development of several new visual communication tools – a brochure in 7 languages, 3 posters in 10 languages and a website to collect and share useful visual tools with others – all co-created by the community to inform and educate both those who have just learned about their HIV status and those still trying to understand their treatment in a simple and understandable language. The community-driven approach mobilised patients living with HIV to play an active role in the testing and dissemination of the material in their community and ensure the effectivity of the new tools. Through this work, ViiV Healthcare was able to support a change in the dynamics of patient care, placing the role of the patient in the driver’s seat of ensuring they and their peers have access to care and information about treatment that is understandable to them.