Meet David Malebranch from the Global HIV Team


Meet David Malebranch from the Global HIV Team

stories@gilead June 14, 2022

A doctor specializing in sexual health and HIV, David Malebranche treats one patient at a time at the clinic. As an activist and writer, embedded at the intersection of Black, LBGTQ+ and HIV communities, he actively uses social media to reach thousands. And now, having joined Gilead in April as Senior Director of Global HIV Medical Affairs, his goal is to make a difference for people living with HIV on a much larger, global scale.

“My plan is to engage healthcare providers, healthcare systems and communities across platforms so we can improve the lives of people everywhere affected by HIV,” he says. More specifically, David will apply his knowledge of HIV to the treatment of people around the world.

David brings more than 20 years as an internal medicine clinician specializing in HIV and qualitative research. After stints at Emory University and the University of Pennsylvania, he most recently worked at the Morehouse School of Medicine, one of the country’s historically black colleges and universities.

Having spent most of his work in the United States, he says he welcomes the opportunity to develop HIV treatment strategies at Gilead and help “bridge the divide” with teams making a global impact to have.

The divide he is referring to is the systemic issues of stigma and discrimination that continue to drive the HIV epidemic. “We have great tools for prevention, we have great tools for treatment,” he says. “The only problem is that we live in a global society where there are pervasive health inequalities that determine whether people have access to these medicines.”

Beyond Routine Care: The Healing Talks About Sharing His Personal Story
HIV is very personal for David. HIV has rocked his community. He has friends who have died and many who are living with the virus. In 2007, he also found himself at the other end of patient care when he learned he had HIV.

David is intentionally open about his diagnosis as it covers much of his life and how he identifies as a Same Sex Male (SGL). “Since I sit at the intersection of Black and SGL, I truly believe that if you don’t tell your story, it won’t be told – or worse, someone else will tell it for you,” says David. “I don’t want anyone else to tell my story. I am the author.”

For David, sharing these stories is an important way to educate others and let them know they are not alone.

Before going to medical school, he studied English at Princeton University and has always enjoyed writing. When it came time to write scientific papers and give conference lectures as a doctor, it was always a matter of course for him. He uses this talent to write numerous lengthy essays that appear in various publications such as For example, in his recent Scientific American article, he highlights how despite advances in HIV care, medical systems can sometimes fail the communities they seek to serve. And then there’s the memoir he wrote, inspired by his Haitian father, a surgeon who died in 2020 and was a major influence on his decision to become a doctor. The book was titled “Standing on Your Shoulders: What I Learned from My Haitian Superman Dad About Race, Life, and High Expectations.”

Leveraging social media as a force for global health literacy
David admits that as a Gen Xer he didn’t grow up with social media, but he knows the value of it and has seen it garner more public attention than any of his academic work.

“Social media is the global platform where people get information. If we as scientists and health officials don’t use it, the wrong narratives will come out,” a problem he saw flare up during the COVID-19 pandemic and which he believes continues to plague the HIV space.

“It is our job as scientists to help clarify and translate and also use simplified language so that everyone can understand. Otherwise we are talking in an echo chamber.”

David understands how privileged he is to be in a position where he can have a soapbox and connect with people. He knows he can tell a story that either shows how clinical providers are doing well by patients or, conversely, shows examples of what not to do, and it can be amplified on social media. “It’s a powerful tool that we need to reach people,” he says.

Paving the way for healthcare leaders
By continuing to share stories publicly, David realizes he can encourage the next generation of healthcare providers to do the same.

“If you don’t see people like you, don’t think it’s possible,” says David. “There are so many ways right now that people can make a difference in healthcare.”

In his new role at Gilead, David is paving the way for other healthcare leaders by sharing the different approaches they can use to educate the world. From treatment to prevention to education and writing, David’s new role will continue to focus on treating people living with HIV in a way consistent with what he has done throughout his career.

“The only difference is that I’m now approaching HIV care globally on one platform within the pharmaceutical industry.”

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