At its meeting in Paris on 12-13 December, the UNITAID Executive Board demonstrated its continued commitment to scaling up access for HIV/AIDS and malaria by allocating an extra US$ 138 million to the two diseases.
UNITAID will provide funding support over the next four years for the Medicines Patent Pool to negotiate voluntary licences from brand companies to generic manufacturers to facilitate affordable access to HIV/AIDS medicines in developing countries.
“Precisely because funding for AIDS is threatened by the economic crisis, we need to leverage all the tools at our disposal to ensure staunch commitment to increase treatment coverage,” said Philippe Douste-Blazy, Chairman of the UNITAID Executive Board. “Innovative mechanisms that can increase treatment availability and decrease prices, such as the Pool, are critical components of UNITAID’s strategy to address the funding gap”.
The Board resolution on this issue reiterates UNITAID’s position that the Pool should seek a broad geographical scope to include low- and middle-income countries as potential beneficiaries of the licenses.
“Because the Pool is a voluntary mechanism, its ultimate success depends on the willingness of patent holders to share their technology in ways that allow as many people in developing countries as possible to benefit,” added Philippe Douste-Blazy. “The Pool has achieved promising results in its first year and we urge all pharmaceutical companies to enter into licensing agreements to breach the gap of 15 million people who need treatment.”
The UNITAID Board also committed US$ 62 million to continue supporting the scale-up of HIV/AIDS treatment for children in partnership with the Clinton Health Access Initiative. The partnership, which covers about 85% of paediatric AIDS treatment, has been successful in promoting child-friendly medicines by ensuring long-term, high-volume drug purchases which have reduced the cost of the medicines by as much as 80%.
An additional US$ 50 million were committed to the Global Fund to increase access to artemisinin-based combination therapy (the best known treatment for malaria today) in the eight African countries that bear the largest malaria burden.