In the lead-up to the United Nations High Level Meeting on AIDS, next week, UNITAID today releases a landmark report revealing that innovative technologies to test and monitor HIV/AIDS could soon be within reach of the world’s poorest regions.
HIV/AIDS Diagnostic Landscape maps the development and imminent coming to market of a wide range of simple, cost-effective technologies adapted for use at “point of care” in poor health systems and rural areas by non-specialised healthcare workers.
“This diagnostics landscape represents the first global public good of its kind,” said Jorge Bermudez, UNITAID’s Executive Secretary. “It proves that industry can contribute to overcoming access barriers. It is now up to the global health community to ensure that these tools are rolled out to the people who need them.”
The HIV/AIDS Diagnostic Landscape report will enable buyers of health commodities for developing countries (health and development agencies, developing countries’ national AIDS programmes, non-governmental organizations, etc.) to choose from a range of innovative products that will make their HIV/AIDS response more effective. As a large purchaser of HIV/AIDS products, with US $ 800 million invested in less than five years, UNITAID will work to accelerate early market entry of these new technologies and facilitate partners’ work to roll them out.
The UNITAID report covers three types of HIV technologies: Early Infant Diagnostics (EID) to facilitate detection of HIV in children under 18 months; CD4 technologies that indicate when a person with HIV should initiate treatment; and viral load, which signals when a patient needs to switch from first-line to second-line treatment. The latter is particularly important as one of the great challenges in HIV/AIDS treatment for the future is to ensure that people who have developed resistance to conventional drug regimens are able to switch to more robust medicines in order to keep living healthy lives.
Maurine Murtagh, the author of the report, expects that up to three new EID, four new CD4, and five new viral load technologies for use at the point of patient care will be released over the next two to three years. The news comes at a time when the World Health Organization and UNAIDS – through their Treatment 2.0 initiative – are calling for simpler, less expensive diagnostic tests and treatment regimens to make universal access a reality.
Today, there are not enough HIV diagnostic laboratories and equipment to reach all patients in need of EID, CD4 or viral load testing in developing countries. In addition, the laboratories are located in urban centres and require highly skilled laboratory personnel to operate. This means that until now millions of people living with HIV/AIDS in developing countries have not had access to these vital tools to ensure their appropriate care and treatment.
UNITAID is one of the first international health agencies to adopt market-based approaches to improve public health. This report marks UNITAID’s commitment to monitor global health markets and act in favour of greater access to quality products. UNITAID will produce the HIV Diagnostic Landscape on an annual basis, and provide biannual updates to keep the global health community abreast of important advances in this field. These reports will serve as a key reference point for global health agencies, practitioners, advocates and others to make decisions about which technology is most appropriate for their particular health system.