UNAIDS chief welcomes plan to slash prices of essential medicines

7 August 2009

A top United Nations official has hailed agreements reached by the Clinton Foundation with pharmaceutical companies Pfizer and Matrix to reduce the prices of antiretroviral drugs for people living with AIDS and tuberculosis (TB).

“The reduction of prices of second line antiretroviral drugs will saves lives,” said Michel Sidibé, Executive Director of the Joint UN Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS). “These agreements will help improve the sustainability of national treatment programmes over the long term.”

Second line antiretroviral drugs are necessary when people living with HIV – currently an estimated 33 million people worldwide – fail to respond to standard treatment regimens.

At the end of last year, an estimated 5 per cent of the 4 million people on antiretroviral treatment required second line drugs, according to UNAIDS, which added that the need for these drugs is expected to rise in the coming years.

The agency noted that the agreement with Matrix to make available three second line drugs in a single package will also contribute to the ease of delivery and help increase treatment adherence.

Meanwhile, the agreement with Pfizer will enable people to seek treatment for TB – a leading cause of death for those living with AIDS – without interrupting their second line treatment.

“People living with HIV should not have to choose between TB and AIDS treatment,” said Mr Sidibé. “We have to stop people living with HIV from dying of TB.”

Meanwhile, UN Deputy High Commissioner for Human Rights Kyung-wha Kang is slated to attend the five-day International Congress on AIDS in Asia and the Pacific in Bali, Indonesia, starting on Sunday.

Ms. Kang is expected to send a clear message stressing that the protection of human rights is indispensable in addressing the AIDS epidemic. “HIV is not just a virus,” she said. “It’s also about people who endure discrimination and a wide array of human rights violations.”


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