HIV-positive children in developing countries will have access to more appropriate and, above all, four times cheaper treatment.
The much-needed HIV treatment especially among children will now be available in low and middle-income countries, thanks to a landmark agreement between Unitaid and the Clinton Health Access Initiative (CHAI).
"Children in low and middle-income countries often wait years to have access to the same medicines as adults, which affects their quality of life and sometimes leads to unnecessary deaths," Philippe Duneton, Unitaid Executive Director exclusively spoke to Africanews.
"This agreement will help children access medication at a record pace, with a guaranteed quality. By ensuring early access to this treatment will transform the lives of children living with HIV, helping them stay on treatment and saving thousands of lives," he added
The new product will be first available in Benin, Kenya, Malawi, Nigeria, Uganda and Zimbabwe during the first half of 2021, "with a goal of rapidly expanding distributions to other countries..
“Today, with triple therapy, if pregnant women who are HIV-positive are screened and maintain their treatment correctly, they cannot transmit the HIV virus to their child. This explains why in Europe or in the United States, we hardly see children contacting the virus. Unfortunately, in countries like Nigeria and others in states in Africa, there is low access by these programs yet we are having a lot of HIV positive children still being born with the virus and still need this treatment. We have therefore chosen countries with which we already have partnership in place and which have real need for treatment among children infected with HIV ," Louis Pizzaro, head of Unitaid program in charge of HIV projects said.
For Mûtahi Kagwe, Kenya's health cabinet secrertary, said, “this announcement marks a radical change in the quality of treatment for children with HIV. Kenya intends to be the first country to adopt the new DTG 10mg pediatric formulation, which will improve treatment, reduce unpleasant side effects and help children stay on treatment and lead healthy lives. We are delighted that for the first time in Kenya and other countries can provide children with the same quality of treatment as adults, which has been made possible by the development of this new formulation."
"Today, after years of work, with this new drug, we are at the forefront of recommendations and Africa has access to the best treatment in the world against HIV among children" - Louis Pizzaro, head of a Unitaid program in HIV projects said.
Access to Treatment and Regional Disparities
"In recent years we have seen, thanks to the efforts of the international community, a considerable increase in access to treatment for adults. In southern African countries, for example, we now have antiretroviral coverage - people who need treatment are actually receiving it - but there are still disparities in Africa by regions.
West Africa or Central Africa, which have smaller epidemics than those in Southern Africa, received less funding, but more importantly, had health systems that were much more fragile.
In these regions, the tests do not necessarily arrive and as a result, many women are HIV-positive, but do not know it and continue to transmit HIV to their children. So a country like Nigeria, for example, has more than 20% of children still being born with HIV, given the population density and the very large size of the country.
"Children remain the most affected in terms of access to HIV medicine. This is why, with Unitaid, we decided to focus on this population several years ago," explains Louis Pizzaro.
Price divided by four
This new treatment, with a new component that is truly tailored to the specific needs for children, will go from over $480 per child to less than $120 per child per year.
The price agreement reached with generic manufacturers Viatris and Macleods will reduce the price of one of the components of the cocktail used to contain HIV to $36 per child from $400 previously. This is dolutegravir (DTG) is considered as a first-line treatment drug.
Many children go untreated due to poor taste and appropriate medication.
With a strawberry flavour, this new DTG 10 mg tablet is more appealing to children. Presented in soluble tablet form, it is also more easily accepted by children than previous treatments that were presented as large, non-soluble tablets.