With her calm and engaging demeanor, Jaimie P. Meyer, MD, MS, was a comforting presence to many people in Connecticut during the early days of the COVID pandemic. Meyer was one of many Yale doctors who regularly appeared on local TV, answering medical questions and sharing the latest COVID-19 information with their audience.
When the pandemic began, Meyer and other Yale physician-scientists quickly turned away from their field of research and took on new roles. Now they are focusing again on the questions underlying their research, which for Meyer have to do with HIV and women’s health.
An associate professor of medicine (infectious diseases, AIDS) at the Yale School of Medicine and of Chronic Disease Epidemiology at the Yale School of Public Health, Meyer addresses the social and structural factors that influence a woman’s HIV risk. She previously worked with women at the York Correctional Facility in Connecticut for seven years as an HIV caregiver.
“For many of the women I’ve worked with over the decades, it’s really about managing relationships, their substance use, and addressing their HIV risk,” Meyer said. “If they are already HIV positive, it is also about being in care.”
Meyer’s lab informs, develops and tests HIV prevention strategies and treatments that are “gender-responsive, trauma-responsive and address social determinants of health,” she said.
“When women are first incarcerated, they are separated from their communities and their partners and whatever social support system they have, and many didn’t have much,” Meyer said. “It’s worth being able to do something for them and help them rebuild and watch them succeed.”
She has maintained her bond with many of these women at the Nathan Smith Clinic, a Ryan White-funded clinic and one of Yale’s primary care centers for people living with HIV. “It’s just an incredibly powerful patient-caregiver relationship,” she said. “Many of these women go on to live healthy and long lives. I have the joy of being a part of their journey.”
Meyer’s lab is involved in several HIV-related projects. “Identifying HIV Care Outcomes and Resilience in Women Exposed to Partner Violence,” funded by the National Institutes of Health, aims to understand how exposure to intimate partner violence affects women’s ability to self-manage their HIV. Meyer’s co-principal investigator is Tami Sullivan, PhD, of the Department of Psychiatry, who leads family violence research and programs at Yale.
“Project CHANGE: Comprehensive Housing and Addiction Management Network for Greater New Haven” is a SAMHSA funded service project designed to provide integrated housing and addiction treatment to people returning home from the criminal justice system.
And “PrEP WAVE: Optimizing the Potential of PrEP in Nonclinical Settings,” is a National Institutes of Health-funded project developing and evaluating a PrEP decision aid for black women dealing with intimate partner violence in Baltimore, Maryland. Meyer’s co-principal investigator on this project is Tiara Willie, PhD, an assistant professor at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. PrEP refers to pre-exposure prophylaxis (taking a prescription drug to prevent HIV infection in an HIV-negative person).
Meyer also served as a medical expert in lawsuits related to COVID in prisons. “COVID, especially in the early days of the pandemic, swept prisons and jails,” she said. Advocacy organizations such as the ACLU have sued prisons or the Federal Bureau of Prisons on behalf of inmates. As a result, thousands of people were released from prison, reducing their COVID risk.
As part of the settlement of one case in Connecticut, Meyer was appointed as a member of an independent oversight committee to recommend changes to improve prison closed-space conditions during a pandemic.
“I am thrilled to be an infectious disease physician-scientist and proud to be part of the Yale community, which truly rose to the challenge of a global pandemic and continues to impact everyday life of people,” Meyer said.
The Division of Infectious Diseases of the Department of Internal Medicine is engaged in a wide range of patient care, research and educational activities. To learn more about their work, visit Infectious diseases.