19 September 2023 | Press releases

Presidents of Brazil and France call for increased support to Unitaid to speed up access to lifesaving health products

New York/Geneva – During this year’s United Nations General Assembly, world leaders, health partners and community representatives joined Unitaid to call for faster and more equitable access to lifesaving health products to advance progress on today’s greatest health challenges, including maternal and child health, pandemic prevention, preparedness and response, and HIV, tuberculosis and malaria.

Millions of people in low- and middle-income countries are dying every year from preventable, treatable diseases because they can’t access the lifesaving health products they need. As the world saw during the COVID-19 pandemic, tests, treatments and tools are often either unavailable, unaffordable or arrive too slowly for the people who need them most. Unitaid was created to address this inequality, working with partners to make lifesaving quality health products accessible, equitable and affordable – fast.

“To overcome today’s health challenges, we must move faster, and be more innovative, than ever before. We must be transformative if we are to stop pregnant women and babies from dying for lack of simple treatments such as medical oxygen, and to finally end the epidemics of HIV, tuberculosis and malaria. Unitaid is leading the way by finding the most effective new health products and solutions to address the challenges that are holding us back. This is why France is proud to be one of Unitaid’s founding supporters,” said French President Emmanuel Macron.

Since Unitaid was created in 2006, it has helped fast-track development and approval of more than 100 health products that are now considered the gold standard for fighting HIV, tuberculosis and malaria, improving women’s and children’s health, and strengthening pandemic preparedness and response. Together with partners, it has lowered prices for lifesaving tests, treatments and tools and increased access for the people most in need.

“I was there when Brazil helped create Unitaid in 2006, and I believe this work is needed today more than ever,” said Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, President of Brazil.” “The world saw inequalities spiral during the COVID-19 pandemic. It is unacceptable that the world’s poorest and most vulnerable people don’t have access to tests, medicines and health tools that we know save lives. Health is a human right. Brazil is proud to support Unitaid in its critical work to fast-track new health products and make them accessible and affordable for the people who need them most.”

In a world faced with rising health challenges, Unitaid’s solutions are needed more than ever. COVID-19 contributed to the deaths of nearly 25 million people and reversed progress toward global health goals, and it’s only a matter of time before we’re faced with the next pandemic. Hotter temperatures and changing rainfall patterns caused by climate change are pushing diseases like malaria into new communities. Tuberculosis, HIV and malaria still kill 2.7 million people each year and are becoming increasingly drug-resistant, making them harder to treat.

To help address these challenges, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation announced it will double its support to Unitaid to US$100 million over the next five years.

“It takes far too long for lifesaving products to get from approval to widespread adoption. For over 15 years, Unitaid has played a pivotal role in speeding up that process – developing new health innovations, then working with organizations like the Global Fund to get them to people faster,” said Bill Gates, co-Chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. “We’re on the cusp of exciting new innovations that will help accelerate progress on HIV, TB, and malaria, as well as maternal and child health. By doubling our foundation’s commitment to Unitaid, we hope to get these tools in the hands of health workers in time to save millions of lives.”

“I applaud the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s decision to double its financial support to Unitaid,” said President Macron.

Portugal and Spain also announced new funding this week. Unitaid achieves its impact by working together with partners in the global health community, including the countries and affected communities who identify challenges and potential solutions; the researchers and companies creating innovative new products; the implementing partners and health workers testing those products and solutions in country; the World Health Organization which uses evidence from Unitaid’s work to make policy and give official approval for the new products; and the governments and global health organizations like the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, the U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), and the U.S. President’s Malaria Initiative (PMI) that buy the products and take them to scale around the world.

“If we are to save lives faster and attain the Sustainable Development Goals by 2030, we will need to intensify our efforts to ensure everyone, everywhere has access to the health products they need to protect themselves and their families. The doubling of the financial contribution by Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to Unitaid is an important step. I also welcome the recently announced contributions to Unitaid by the Governments of Spain and Portugal. This support will help Unitaid find new solutions that will improve women’s and children’s health, fight HIV, TB and malaria, and address the health impacts from new challenges like climate change.” said Marisol Touraine, Unitaid Board Chair.

Unitaid’s unique approach of helping to introduce new health products and solutions, then working with governments and partners to take them to scale, helps reach the health-related targets of the Sustainable Development Goals three years faster, according to a joint study of Unitaid’s work.

“I know the value of Unitaid’s work because I’ve lived it,” said Maurine Murenga, a Kenyan health advocate. “I remember what it was like to get diagnosed with HIV and not have access to medicines. To not have treatment for my newborn child. Access is a right. And Unitaid helped make that right a reality for countless people in low- and middle-income countries.”

Brazil and France will co-host an event with Unitaid in New York this evening, “Equitable Access to Health Technologies: The Key to the Future of Global Health”. Keynote addresses will be made by Dr. Nísia Trindade, the Minister of Health of Brazil, Mr. Aurélien Rousseau, the Minister of Health and Prevention of France, and Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the Director-General of the World Health Organization. Representatives from communities, governments and global health partners will discuss new ways to speed up equitable access to new health products so we can save lives, faster.


Media contact:

For more information and media requests:

Hervé Verhoosel

Head of Communications and Spokesperson

M: +33 6 22 59 73 54

verhooselh@unitaid.who.int

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