12 December 2014 | Statements

Unitaid will invest to enable universal HIV care for children

Bringing early infant diagnosis to communities for game-changing disease management.

The UNITAID Executive Board finished its twenty-first meeting and decided that UNITAID will invest up to $63 million through the Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation to bring early infant diagnosis for HIV to the heart of communities in nine African countries. This will pave the way to universal access for testing and enable a ten-fold increase in treatment, thus transforming global childhood HIV/AIDS. Initiating treatment before the twelfth week of life reduces HIV-related mortality by 75%. However only half of babies born to HIV-infected mothers are tested in their first two months of life. Half those who are tested never receive their results and therefore cannot be put on the life-saving treatment.

The new investment will meet over 40% of the unmet need to test infants in the target countries, by providing 650 devices and enabling over 780,000 tests in three years. Furthermore, it will generate 40% cost savings for the testing procedure overall.

‘Bringing testing closer to infants is vital,’ said Lelio Marmora, Executive Director of UNITAID. ‘With poor infrastructure and caregivers often not able to afford transportation, centralised testing in main cities simply cannot reach enough babies, leaving the vast majority unserved and with dire prospects. Technologies which can be brought to where most families with newborns live will reach many more of these youngest and most vulnerable and help deliver them better care. This is what our investment with the Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDs Foundation is focused to make happen.’

Additionally, as part of its on-going commitment to paediatric HIV, UNITAID is forming a partnership with the Children’s Investment Fund Foundation (CIFF) to accelerate access to some of the best new technologies for infant and child HIV testing and medicines in order that larger health funders can take them to scale.

Still for diagnostics, UNITAID is extending its investments with France Expertise Internationale to bring WHO-recommended viral load testing much closer to adults and older children living with HIV in West Africa through the introduction of the newest innovations. It is committing nearly $4 million to increase demand and lower prices for HIV viral load testing in seven countries, mostly for underserved populations, including infants. Since 2013, the World Health Organization has recommended viral load testing to monitor if a person’s HIV treatment is still effective or not, yet only a fraction of people in need currently have access to such monitoring.

Also as part of UNITAID’s portfolio in HIV treatment investments, it will continue to fully-fund the Medicines Patent Pool for the next five years with a commitment of $29 million, supporting its work on the negotiation of patent licences for priority HIV medicines to enable the manufacture of lower cost generic versions and new adapted products including combinations of different medicines. The MPP currently yields over twice UNITAID’s investment value through costs savings for the international community from generic production. Its most recent success came this month when it secured licences from AbbVie for two key paediatric products. This new agreement will enable more affordable and improved formulations of the medicines to be produced in over 100 countries where 99% of the infected children live.

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