1 Some experts, world leaders, and stars around the world have called for the dramatic reduction in price of the ground-breaking new HIV medicines, to ensure global accessibility to all who need them.
2 The News Agency of Nigeria reports that some of the advocates included Nobel laureates Françoise Barré-Sinoussi and Joseph Stiglitz, former President of Malawi, Dr Joyce Banda and former New Zealand Prime Minister Helen Clark.
3 Others are artistes Olly Alexander (singer and actor), Stephen Fry (actor, writer, and presenter), Adam Lambert (singer and songwriter), David Oyelowo (actor, producer, director) and Arnaud Valois (actor).
4 Also, business leaders Mo Ibrahim and Paul Polman are amongst those who have joined the call in an open letter.
5 The letter was published in the run up to the International AIDS Conference, which opened in Montreal on July 29.
“ AIDS pandemic continues to take a life every minute, and new HIV infections are rising in too many communities.
6 “The breakthrough long-acting medicine only has to be taken every few months and is proving to be one of the most effective methods to prevent HIV transmission.
7 “In addition to the prevention tool available now, long-acting antiretrovirals could one day be part of revolutionizing treatment to prevent deaths.
8 “But these medicines are currently only available in high-income countries at a price of tens of thousands of dollars – far out of reach for people and governments in low- and middle-income countries.
9 “People in these countries need them most,’’ they said in the letter.
10 The advocates said that these long-acting HIV medicines could enable millions of adolescent girls and young women in sub-Saharan Africa to protect themselves from acquiring HIV.
11 According to them, they can enable people from marginalised communities including gay men, transgender people, and sex workers, to receive a discreet injection every few months to protect themselves.
12 The letter called on ViiV, one of the world’s largest HIV pharmaceutical companies, to share their technology and know-how to boost production and set their price at a point where all countries could afford to buy these medicines.
13 In particular, it called on ViiV to tackle the barriers to access by taking some steps.
15 “The current best PrEP option is approximately $60 per person per year.
16 Make the price public and transparent, and include the cost of the accompanying syringe.
17 “Quickly finalise licences to produce generic versions of this long-acting ARV through the Medicines Patent Pool.
“Licence across the world’s low- and middle-income countries on a non-exclusive basis, with a broad geographic scope for both treatment and prevention.
18 “Share know-how and technology.
19 Enable producers in Africa, Asia, Latin America, Eastern and Central Europe and beyond to seek transfer and begin producing.
20 “Commit to making enough to meet demand until generic producers come online.
Lilian Mworeko, Regional Coordinator of the International Community of Women Living with HIV Eastern Africa (ICWEA), said: “While many in the global North are getting access to long-acting HIV prevention tools and medicines, Africans are overwhelmingly denied the opportunity.
22 “It is worse for groups who continue to be left behind like adolescent girls and young women.
23 “ As long as the price is unaffordably high for our governments and for funders to purchase, we will continue to be locked out from being able to access them.
24 “They are vital to preventing new HIV infections and they could become transformational in treatment.
25 “Our message is simple: all of our lives matter,’’ she said.
27 The signatories to the letter stressed that they could and must be made available to everyone, regardless of the passport they hold or the money in their pocket.
28 They said that the new medicines present a remarkable opportunity to avoid the scientific and policy mistakes that defined the early years of AIDS whereby after the first antiretroviral HIV drugs received approval, prohibitive costs meant they were out of reach in the global South.
29 They said that millions died and that the failings were not due to scientific or technical limitations but as the result of conscious choices about how medical innovation and access to health tools were organised and financed.
30 “It is within ViiV’s power to ensure that millions more people around the world are able to benefit from the incredible technical advances that have gone into this new medicine.
31 “If countries know that it is available at an affordable price, they will be able to prioritise the purchase of it from their health budgets and to make it available to all who need it,’’ said Deborah Gold, CEO of the National Aids Trust.
33 “There is a choice about how new medicines are launched into the global market in terms of whether they are available to everyone, everywhere.
34 “The limitations are less to do with scientific or technical challenges and much more to do with how medical innovation and access to health countermeasures are currently organised and financed to favour the rich and reinforce inequity.
The International AIDS Conference, is taking place in Montreal from July 29 to Aug. 2, 2022.
It offers an historic opportunity for ViiV to stand with world leaders, civil society and people living with and at risk of HIV from around the world and pledge actions that will save lives and accelerate efforts to end AIDS as a public health threat by 2030.
The World Health Organisation will release new guidelines on CAB-LA – the new medicines – at the conference.
37 40 million people around the world are living with HIV today, and around 1.5 million people were newly infected in 2020 alone.
38 “This is an issue of inequality.
“Will these new medicines help us break down the inequalities driving the AIDS pandemic – affordable and available for those who need them most?
Or will they stay out of reach?“
The pharmaceutical industry has the opportunity to make medicines affordable and accessible to people in all countries, including so-called middle-income countries – through sharing technologies and setting an affordable price today until those generics come online.”