With her calm and engaging manner, 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 several Yale doctors who appeared frequently on local TV, answering medical questions while sharing the latest COVID-19 information with their audience.
When the pandemic began, Meyer and other Yale physician-scientists quickly pivoted from their fields of inquiry and took on new roles. Now they are transitioning back to focusing on the questions that drive their research, which for Meyer have to do with HIV and women’s health.
An associate professor of medicine (infectious diseases, AIDS) at Yale School of Medicine and of Chronic Disease Epidemiology at Yale School of Public Health, Meyer addresses the social and structural factors that impact a woman’s HIV risk. She previously spent seven years working with women at the York Correctional Facility in Connecticut as the HIV care provider.
“For many of the women that I've been working with over the past couple of decades, it's really about dealing with relationships, their substance use, and addressing their HIV risk,” Meyer said. “If they're already HIV-positive, it’s also about ensuring that they're in care.”
Meyer’s lab informs, develops, and tests strategies for HIV prevention and treatments that are “gender-responsive, trauma-responsive, and address social determinants of health,” she said.
“When women are first incarcerated, they're separated from their communities and their partners and whatever social support system they have, and many didn't have much,” Meyer said. “It’s rewarding to be able to do something for them and help to build them back up and see them succeed.”
She has maintained her connection to 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 kind of patient-provider relationship,” she said. “A lot of these women go on to live healthy, long lives. I have the joy of being part of their journey.”
Meyer’s lab is involved in several HIV-related projects. “Identifying HIV Care Outcomes and Resilience Among Women Exposed to Partner Violence,” funded by the National Institutes of Health, aims to understand how exposure to intimate partner violence affects women’s abilities 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 deliver integrated housing and addiction treatment for people returning home from the criminal justice system.
And “PrEP WAVE: Optimizing PrEP's Potential in Non-Clinical Settings,” is an National Institutes of Health-funded project that deals with the development and evaluation of a PrEP Decision Aid for Black women experiencing intimate partner violence in Baltimore, Maryland. Meyer’s co-principal investigator on this project is Tiara Willie, PhD, an assistant professor at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. PrEP refers to pre-exposure prophylaxis (the taking of a prescription medication as a means of preventing HIV infection in an HIV-negative person).
Meyer also served as a medical expert on legal cases involving COVID in prisons. “COVID, especially in the early days of the pandemic, just swept prisons and jails,” she said. Advocacy organizations such as the ACLU sued prisons or the Federal Bureau of Prisons on behalf of incarcerated people. As a result, thousands of people were released from prison, reducing their COVID risk.
As part of the settlement of one Connecticut case, Meyer was appointed as a member of an independent monitoring committee to recommend changes so that conditions in the closed spaces of prisons could be improved during a pandemic.
“I really love being an infectious diseases physician-scientist and am proud of being a part of the Yale community, which really rose to the challenge of a global pandemic and continues to make an impact people’s daily lives,” Meyer said.
The Infectious Diseases Section of the Department of Internal Medicine engages in a broad range of patient care, research, and educational activities. To learn more about their work, visit Infectious Diseases.