HIV :: First-year success reported for UN-backed HIV and TB drug facility for poor

In the year since it was established to provide medicines for HIV/AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis to the poorest people of developing countries, the United Nations-backed international drug purchase facility UNITAID has managed to reduce the price of HIV treatments for children by almost 40 per cent.

Launched in September 2006 during the sixty-first UN General Assembly, the facility has also cut prices for second-line antiretroviral (ARV) drugs by between 25 and 50 per cent. In collaboration with the Clinton Foundation, UNITAID has delivered more than 33,000 paediatric treatments against HIV/AIDS and is on course to meet the needs of 100,000 children by the end of this year.

Its budget for 2007 is over $300 million and 90 per cent has already been committed to programmes in more than 80 countries. It has committed $45 million for second-line antiretroviral drugs to fund the treatment of 65,000 patients by 2008. Four countries – Botswana, Cameroon, Uganda and Zambia – have already received a first supply of second-line ARV drugs and a further 13 countries are currently awaiting delivery.

In partnership with the UN World Health Organization (WHO) and the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF), UNITAID has purchased and distributed 1.3 million Artemisinin-based Combination Therapies (ACT) in Burundi and Liberia. It is also supporting ACT procurement and delivery to eight countries in collaboration with the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria and UNICEF.

Contributing to the fight against TB together with the Global Drug Facility and the Stop TB Partnership, by the end of the year UNITAID will have provided treatments to 150,000 children in 19 countries and will be supporting providing of drugs for multidrug-resistant TB in 17 low-income countries.

UNITAID seeks to scale up access to treatments for HIV/AIDS, malaria and TB in developing countries by leveraging quality drugs and diagnostics price reductions while accelerating the pace at which these are made available. For each programme, UNITAID sets up a partnership with existing organizations: WHO, UNICEF, the Global Fund, the Clinton Foundation, Global Drug Facility/Green Light Committee and the Stop TB Partnership.

It offers beneficiary countries long-term support through sustainable and predictable funding, mobilized by innovative financing mechanisms, such as a solidarity contribution on air tickets, together with multi-year predictable budgetary contributions.

Based in Geneva, its Trust Fund and Secretariat are hosted by WHO. At present, 27 countries, 19 of them in Africa, are members and contribute to UNITAID. At least 85 per cent of UNITAID funds are spent in low-income countries.

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