UNITAID - Financed project to increase access to new HIV monitoring technology

Agreement signed with FEI to improve HIV monitoring through affordable access to viral load testing for HIV patients and early infant diagnosis in resource-limited settings.

UNITAID and France Expertise Internationale (FEI) signed a US$ 2.4 million agreement to implement the “OPP-ERA” project which will stimulate the market entry of new manufacturers and suppliers of HIV Viral Load Test (VLT) technologies, bringing an innovative solution to meet the HIV monitoring and diagnostics needs in resource-limited settings.

OPP-ERA – OPP standing for Open Polyvalent Platforms – is an innovative system to detect HIV viral load, which enables machines and reagents coming from different manufacturers and suppliers to be used together. This diagnostic system is flexible, rapid, and easy to use, with appropriate-sized machines for peripheral settings. The OPP system can be used not only for HIV viral load testing and early infant diagnosis, but also for other infectious agents.

This initiative aims to bring the prices of these tests down.

OPP-ERA will focus on viral load testing for adults and early infant diagnosis of HIV. Viral load testing is crucial to determine when patients need to switch treatments. Currently, less than 10% of HIV patients in low-income settings have access to viral load tests as they are expensive and usually only available in the central laboratories of capitals. Early infant diagnosis is essential for young infants born to mothers living with HIV. In 2011 alone, 230,000 children died of AIDS-related causes, most before the age of two. These deaths could have been avoided by making an accurate diagnosis followed by adapted treatment in the first weeks of life.

UNITAID will finance OPP-ERA for an initial pilot stage in 4 countries: Burundi, Cameroon, Côte d’Ivoire, and Guinea. The project will be implemented by a consortium of partners led by FEI, comprising the French National Agency for Research on AIDS and Viral Hepatitis (ANRS), the Network for Therapeutic Solidarity in Hospitals (ESTHER), SIDACTION and Therapeutic Solidarity and Initiatives against AIDS (SOLTHIS). FEI is a French governmental agency for international cooperation and development under the supervision of the French Ministry of Foreign and European Affairs.

OPP-ERA is a key part of UNITAID’s investment to bring vital HIV monitoring and testing to remote communities. “The UNITAID Executive Board has approved grants to the Clinton Health Access Initiative, UNICEF, Médecins Sans Frontières and FEI to introduce new diagnostics. OPP-ERA completely fits into UNITAID’s approach to provide a comprehensive response to affordable diagnostic tools in countries in need”, said Dr Denis Broun, Executive Director of UNITAID.

UNITAID is a global health initiative launched in 2006 by the Governments of Brazil, Chile, France, Norway and the United Kingdom to provide sustainable and predictable funding for the fight against HIV/AIDS, TB and malaria.

About 70% of UNITAID’s fund comes from a minimal levy on airline tickets.

Today, UNITAID is supported by 28 countries and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

Through implementers, UNITAID finances the purchase of quality-assured drugs and diagnostics for patients in countries in need, using its market power to expand supply, promote development of new and better products, cut delivery lead times and reduce prices.

For more information: www.unitaid.eu