UNITAID cautions against childhood HIV becoming a neglected disease

“About 3.3 million children are living with HIV today,” said Dr Philippe Douste-Blazy, Chairman of the UNITAID Executive Board. “The international community must commit to providing them with the best treatment, and avoid childhood HIV becoming a neglected disease.” UNITAID addresses childhood HIV by ensuring that as many children as possible living with HIV in poor countries get access to the best treatments at affordable prices. Children are rarely born with HIV in wealthy countries because mothers living with HIV are treated during pregnancy to ensure that their babies are born HIV-free. It is very different elsewhere: there were 300,000 new infections in children in sub-Saharan Africa in 2011, the majority infected in the womb. Nevertheless, programmes to stop mother-to-child transmission of the disease in Africa are working – between 2009 and 2011 antiretroviral prophylaxis prevented 409,000 children from acquiring HIV infection in low- and middle-income countries, according to UNAIDS. “We salute the progress that has been made in preventing mother-to-child transmission of HIV,” said Dr Denis Broun, Executive Director of UNITAID. “Yet new data released this World AIDS Day shows that only 28% of children that require life-saving treatment are actually receiving it, compared to over 50% of adults in low-and middle-income countries.” Since its creation in 2006, UNITAID has been addressing paediatric HIV by creating the market for quality child-friendly antiretroviral treatments as previously there was no incentive for pharmaceutical companies to invest in child-friendly antiretrovirals and none existed. Before UNITAID, most HIV treatments available for children in low-income countries were syrups designed for adults with up to 18 foul-tasting doses a day. UNITAID’s long-term funding gave suppliers the incentive to manufacture child-friendly formulations that are easy-to-take with a number of drugs combined in the same pill. Several generic suppliers were encouraged to enter the market, allowing for more competition and lower prices. Thanks to this market intervention, even those countries that don’t receive direct UNITAID support can benefit from lower prices and increased availability of better products. “Now is the time to follow up on our work with paediatric HIV,” added Dr Douste-Blazy. “Despite the financial crisis, we call on the international community to step up focus for these kids in need at a time when they may be considering otherwise.” Contact: Clare COURTNEY, Communications Manager, +41 79 445 22 80, courtneyc@who.int. About UNITAID UNITAID was launched in 2006 as an innovative mechanism for scaling up access to treatment for HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria. Founded by Brazil, Chile, France, Norway and the UK, today UNITAID has the support of 28 countries as well as the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. UNITAID currently supports partner programmes in 94 countries worldwide – we are addressing HIV/AIDS in 51 countries, malaria in 29 countries, and tuberculosis in 72 countries. Since late 2006 UNITAID has committed US$ 1.3 billion to the diagnosis and treatment of these three diseases, representing a total of over 21 million treatments provided to patients. UNITAID uses a market impact model that drives prices down, by guaranteeing a long-term market for large volumes of drugs and medical tools. Reduced prices, in turn, help funds go further and help more people. UNITAID’s work also helps foster the development of needed medicine formulations that otherwise are not priorities for pharmaceutical research and development programmes, such as three-in-one fixed-dose combination AIDS medicines for children. UNITAID’s funding model is based on an air ticket solidarity levy. While some of our donors contribute through multi-year budgetary commitments, the air tax provides about 70% of our funding. The added value is that a very tiny percentage of a large volume of transactions, which has minimal impact for those who pay, will have maximum impact for those who receive. ENDS