Thiru Balasubramaniam thiru at keionline.org
Fri May 28 08:08:09 PDT 2010


Geneva, 28 May 2010 — UNITAID welcomes the report released by Médecins  
Sans Frontières on 27 May, No time to quit: HIV/AIDS treatment gap  
widening in Africa.  It is an important step in the lead-up to the  
Vienna International AIDS Conference in July, and a vital call to  
action to all stakeholders to keep funding AIDS and build on the many  
successes of the past 10 years.

However, page 18 of the report could give the impression that UNITAID  
aims to phase out its support in the Democratic Republic of Congo,  
Malawi, Mozambique and Zimbabwe without ensuring continuous treatment  
of patients.  To clarify, these countries are part of UNITAID funded  
projects designed to stabilise markets for AIDS products to facilitate  
scale-up of treatment and/or prevention for children, pregnant mothers  
and their infants and people who have developed resistance to first  
line therapy.  As with all UNITAID projects, the idea is to achieve  
sustainable supply of quality products and reduced prices in  
developing countries so that national programmes or other partners can  
take over to ensure continuous treatment.

For most of these projects, the initial plan was indeed for UNITAID to  
hand over to other funding sources earlier.  However, as UNITAID's  
main concern is to avoid interruption of treatment, and ensure that  
price reductions achieved increase access and availability, UNITAID  
has extended funding of these projects with plans for smooth  
transition to the Global Fund, PEPFAR or others between 2010-2011, and  
potentially beyond, depending on the status of the transition.

UNITAID has spent half a billion dollars on AIDS treatment globally to  
cover paediatric treatment in 44 countries, prevention of mother-to  
child transmission of HIV/AIDS in 17 high burden countries and second- 
line treatment for patients failing conventional therapy in 25  
countries.  In less than four years significant market impact and cost  
savings have been achieved:

		• Creation of a market for paediatric anti-retroviral medicines  
(ARVs) in partnership with the Clinton Health Action Initiative,  
including the development of the first fixed-dose-combination tablet  
for children;

		• Development of the generic market for key 2nd line ARVs and  
reduced prices so that other donors and national governments can  
continue to treat patients who need to switch to 2nd line treatment  
with expected cost savings of between US$ 300-500 million over the  
next 3 years;

		• Initiation of integrated prevention of mother to child  
transmission of HIV (PMTCT) care packages (including the Mother and  
Baby Pack) to high burden HIV countries to test and treat mothers and  
their children in partnership with UNICEF.

In addition to support of current projects, UNITAID plans to continue  
to invest in market-oriented AIDS interventions for greater impact on  
public health.  These include:

		• The UNITAID Patent Pool Initiative, which will establish a  
voluntary licensing mechanism to reduce ARV prices, enhance access and  
spur the development of new formulations (i.e. fixed-dose  
combinations, paediatric and heat-stable formulations) by improving  
access to intellectual property, with expected economic benefits  
estimated to be at a minimum of $260 million over a five-year period;
		• Efforts to develop high quality ARVs by continued investment in  
the WHO Prequalification Programme.
		• Scale up of viral load tests in 2011, in response to public health  
needs and World Health Organization recommendations.  Viral load tests  
are vital in developing countries to extend the therapeutic value of  
first line regimens.
UNITAID has been able to achieve important progress thanks to over US$  
1 billion pledged since 2006, with about $ 350 million annual  
revenue.  UNITAID fully intends to continue to support the global  
response to HIV/AIDS with predictable, sustainable and additional  
funds provided by industrialised and developing countries, mostly  
through a levy on airline tickets.

In order for UNITAID to continue to support the scale-up of AIDS  
treatment and respond to increasing treatment costs as numbers of  
people needing treatment increase, it is vital that donors remain  
committed to investing in UNITAID's work and that new donors join  
through the solidarity air ticket levy, which has proved to be a  
steady source of additional funding.

Contact: Daniela Bagozzi, UNITAID Communication, tel. +41 22 791 45  
44 //
+41 79 475 54 90; bagozzid at who.int


Thiru Balasubramaniam
Geneva Representative
Knowledge Ecology International (KEI)
thiru at keionline.org

Tel: +41 22 791 6727
Mobile: +41 76 508 0997

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