UNITAID STATEMENT ON WORLD AIDS DAY 2011 - Keep the Momentum on Quality, Innovation and Healthy Markets

UNITAID is committed to building on 10 years of historic progress in the fight against AIDS and keep the agenda moving forward to the next level of cost-effective quality care. 

Moreover, UNITAID will continue to advocate for markets that work better to meet public health needs and where trade interests do not hamper medicines access.

"While it is understandable that in the face of economic restrictions the immediate reaction is to contain, we need to keep our eye on the prize," said Philippe Douste-Blazy, Chair of UNITAID.  "Ten years of efforts have brought us to an historic turning point in treating AIDS in the developing world.  We need to keep that momentum - traditional aid is vital, but we can also implement innovative ways of raising additional funds.  For instance, UNITAID has raised $ 1.3 billion in five years, but there are other possible mechanisms such as a financial transaction tax, which could be used to fund HIV/AIDS and other public health priorities."

Funding, political will, innovation and evidence in the last ten years have played a vital role in placing six million people living with HIV/AIDS on treatment and giving hope to millions of others urgently needing medicines.  Global health and development actors have made the money available stretch further by achieving progressively lower prices and a sustainable supply of key HIV medicines, including the development of simplified quality treatments through single pill fixed-dose combinations for adults and children.  Evidence today also shows that quality-assured, safe and effective treatment can prevent transmission as well as significantly improve the lives of people living with HIV.  This means that early, effective and quality-assured treatment is the best value for money proposition we have to curb the epidemic. 

"We need to increase the number of people on treatment and build on all the progress made on quality," noted Denis Broun, UNITAID Executive Director.  "What we have worked hard to realize for ten years is becoming a reality today - people in the South are starting to access the same medicines as people in the North, and what was once a death sentence is today a chronic, manageable condition.  After a decade of diagnostics being out of reach of developing countries, we are on the brink of bringing quality, affordable innovative diagnostics into those markets, making treatment more effective and timely.  Global leaders and others need to capitalize on these successes by supporting the momentum through steady, sustainable funding and innovative interventions that work."

UNITAID has worked intensively to promote innovation in medicines - such as child-friendly formulations; has created a space for more sophisticated second-line treatments at lower cost, and is now looking to bring innovative point-of-care tests to developing countries.  By using a market logic, UNITAID has managed to reduce the cost of some of these products by as much as 80%, prices that are now accessible to everyone.

"As we continue to reduce costs and introduce innovation into developing country markets," added Denis Broun, "it is imperative that larger players such as the Global Fund and PEPFAR are enabled to continue increasing coverage.  Decreasing or flat-lining their activity due to dwindling funds will undo those hard won victories."     

  
In addition to innovative approaches and funding, it is important that a policy environment is created to secure markets that work better to meet public health needs, and that trade interests will not disrupt public health priorities.  For instance, free trade agreements with India - the largest provider of AIDS medicines to the developing world - and other initiatives such as the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) Agreement - should not include data exclusivity or other conditions that will have a negative impact on the supply of affordable generic treatments. 

Finally, UNITAID calls on companies holding patents for important second- and third-line medicines to urgently consider joining the Medicines Patent Pool.  As some people on treatment become resistant to the first line of defense, the developing world will increasingly need newer, more robust medicines which will remain patented for a long time to come.  The Medicines Patent Pool was created precisely to address this challenge and make better patient-adapted, state-of-the-art medicines available to the poor through a voluntary patent sharing mechanism. 

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