On the second day of AFRAVIH, a Francophone international AIDS conference in Geneva, UNITAID calls on the international community to implement three urgent measures to overcome obstacles in the progress against AIDS: reduce the effect of free trade agreements, tap into fresh sources of funding, such as a financial transaction tax, and promote treatment optimization and affordability through market approaches.
“We have come a long way towards treatment scale-up,” said Fogue Foguito, HIV activist in Cameroon. “Let the international community act as a real community for once – through concerted action from both private and public sectors, political conviction, and measures that work.”
Apart from advocating for greater traditional aid to bolster current AIDS efforts and fully finance the Global Fund, there are innovative measures that can have immense impact.
1. Fight free trade agreements – such as the one being currently negotiated between India and the European Union – which include clauses that strengthen patent protection beyond the TRIPS Agreement. India has provided about 80% of the developing world’s AIDS medicines in the last ten years and it needs to continue to do so to ensure scale-up of quality affordable treatment. Equally, other countries need to use full TRIPS flexibilities to provide effective medicines to their populations.
2. Innovative sources of funding can boost resources to fight HIV. UNITAID has raised US$ 1.3 billion – two thirds of its revenue in five years – through an air ticket levy applied in a handful of countries. UNITAID is advocating for other governments to follow suit and also consider implementing a financial transaction tax.
3. Optimising and simplifying treatment. Manufacturers need to be given incentives to develop the right formulations of antiretrovirals and produce them at the needed scale and affordable prices. That incentive requires financial commitment. Assured, long-term funding gives buyers of medicines the leverage to negotiate not only prices but also the quality and formulation of products. Using this market approach, UNITAID created the market for paediatric AIDS medicines and successfully introduced sophisticated second-line treatments into developing countries.
All scientific advances made and all the great ideas discussed at AFRAVIH will need full funding to have tangible impact on the people living with HIV. This is the lynchpin that will turn good intentions into reality.