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How to Tackle the HIV Epidemic Using AI

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Article

Ramin Bastani, founder and CEO of Healthvana, based in Los Angeles, spoke about the current state of HIV in the United States and how his company is helping lower infection rates through patient engagement.

Ramin Bastani

Ramin Bastani

Ramin Bastani is the founder and CEO of Healthvana, a digital AI patient engagement platform that is compliant with HIPAA privacy laws. The platform helps patients by sending them their STI test results, gives medication reminders and lets them know their treatment options going forward. Healthvana currently works with clinics in over 20 states and has delivered over 50 million health records to patients since 2015.

What is the state of HIV in the United States today?

There are more cases than there should be, but there's hope. Specifically, there's a pill called PrEP (preexposure prophylaxis) that you can now take to prevent you from getting HIV the same way a woman can take a birth control pill, and it's 99% effective if you take it consistently. If you're HIV positive, there's a medication combination called ART that you can take that can make sure you're undetectable. What that means is that you cannot transmit it to someone else, even without a condom during sex. A pharmaceutical company also announced recently that they're going to have a shot that you can take on the prevention side, that instead of taking a daily pill for six months, you just get one shot every six months. So, from both sides of it, we’re seeing good innovations. However, there are still about 35,000 cases per year and that's been consistent for almost a decade now.

Does HIV affect communities equally?

It predominantly impacts communities of color. If you're a Black man who's gay or bisexual, or as they would say, in CDC terms, men who have sex with men, your odds of getting HIV today are one and two. If you're Latino, it looks closer to one and five. We also see more cases in the southern part of the United States.

What is Healthvana and how does it work?

We're not the testing facility, we're just the technology layer to get the information and give it to patients in a way they understand. This is also not a diagnostic tool, but it is HIPAA-compliant. We do have an app, but it is not required.

If you're going to a clinic that's using us, you would register either on your phone through a QR code, or you would go to a kiosk.

You'll also get a notification saying we'll [digitally] deliver your test information the moment it's available. All that patients want to generally understand is, ‘Am I okay? If not tell me what to do next.’

There's evidence that shows you're more likely to share sensitive information, especially around your sexual health, with your phone, because you're concerned about stigma in a lot of ways. There are plenty of stories we've heard from patients that their provider won't even tell them about PrEP or shame them for wanting it. It's like, ‘well, what kind of stuff are you doing that you would want this?’

The AI also has different personas. If someone wants a standard persona, great. If you want the drag persona, because that's a little bit more fun and lighthearted was such a sensitive topic – great.

We have well over half a million patients that are either on PrEP, coming in for regular screening or are HIV positive.

What does the future of HIV look like?

There's an overall goal put together initially by the Trump administration and amplified by the Biden administration to end HIV as we know it, by 2030, but we’re hoping it’s a couple years earlier if there’s an uptake of this shot. Ending HIV doesn't mean there's no more HIV at all, it's just that it's so small, you'll see less spread, because if you have people that are HIV positive taking their medication, they can live normal lives. Our work certainly helps with a lot of that.

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