Universal access to affordable AIDS commodities

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Feature story

Universal access to affordable AIDS commodities

09 June 2008

The availability of affordable commodities,
including quality medicines and diagnostics,
is a key factor for moving towards universal

As part of the 2008 High level Meeting on AIDS, a special event entitled “Universal access to affordable diagnostics, prevention and treatment: In search for sustainable solutions” will be held on 9th June in the United Nations Headquarters, New York.

The event, co-organized by UNAIDS, UNOHRLLS and UNOSAA aims to explore potential actions to improve availability of affordable commodities for the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).

The availability of affordable commodities, including quality medicines and diagnostics, is a key factor for moving towards universal access. Despite that antiretroviral coverage rose by 46.5 per cent in 2007, reaching 3 million people in low-income and middle-income countries - approximately 30 per cent of those in need - the price of newer drugs and diagnostics are still high in many parts of the world. Furthermore, an increasing number of people on HIV treatment will need to switch from first-line antiretroviral treatment to second- and third-line combinations in the near future.

HIV Prevention efforts are equally affected by affordability issues, jeopardizing efforts to scale up implementation strategies to prevent mother to child transmission, ensure blood safety, and ensure wide access to preventive measures such as condoms and harm reduction measures.

Countries are trying to deal with these challenges, with varying degrees of success. Between 1997 and 2004, Brazil succeeded in reducing the average cost of antiretroviral drugs to almost one fifth of the original cost, through the use of multiple strategies, such as the local production of generic drugs and price negotiations with pharmaceutical companies. There are also several examples of global collaboration towards improving the availability of affordable commodities, such as the Clinton Foundation, which has been highly successful in negotiating price reduction for antiretroviral drugs in over 60 countries.

However, as countries move to scale up their national AIDS responses, many continue to face difficulties and have expressed frustration in negotiating better access to commodities. Much remains to be done, especially with regards to issues of intellectual property rights, product development processes, demand forecasting, procurement systems, and legislation.

The meeting will be opened by Mr. Cheick Sidi Diarra, Under-Secretary-General and High Representative for the Least Developed Countries, Landlocked Developing Countries and Small Island Developing States, followed by a keynote address by H.E. Mr. Faure Gnassingbe, President of Togo.

Following the presentation, a panel discussion will be moderated by UNAIDS Deputy Executive Director Mr. Michel Sidibe. This panel will further discuss the challenges faced by countries in accessing affordable commodities. Speakers at the discussion panel will include H.E. Ms. Nilcea Freire, Minister of Women’s Affairs, Brazil, H.E.Dr. Brian Chituwo, Minister of Health, Zambia, Ms. Rolake Odetoyinbo, Positive Action for Treatment Access (PATA), Nigeria and Mr. Jeffrey L. Sturchio, Vice President, Merck.