Despite tremendous progress over the last two decades, AIDS continues to be a devastating disease affecting millions of people around the world, with 36.9 million people currently living with HIV.
Yet on the occasion of this World AIDS Day, there is cause for celebration. Through the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP)-Global Fund partnership, the cost of the HIV medicines has dropped to an unprecedented US$100 per person per year in Equatorial Guinea, Haiti, Mali, South Sudan, Zambia and Zimbabwe.
“This is an extraordinary feat that will help us to save more lives, yet we cannot lose sight of the significant challenges that remain,” said Mandeep Dhaliwal, Director of UNDP’s HIV, Health and Development Group. “If we want to end AIDS as a public health threat by 2030, we need to bolster our efforts to ensure that anyone with HIV anywhere in the world has access to the right treatment at an affordable cost,” said Dhaliwal, adding that a range of actions by UNDP have led to improved procurement planning with countries and manufacturers, discounts on large volumes, pooled orders, and reductions in transport and handling costs.
Fifteen years ago, antiretroviral therapy cost more than US$10,000 per patient per year. Within a year this exorbitant price plummeted to US$350 per year when generic manufacturers began to offer treatment. Since then, owing to competition among quality-assured generic manufacturers, the cost of treatment continued to fall to around US$150 per patient per year. These dramatic price reductions has made it possible to provide HIV treatment to 15.8 million people, up from a mere 700,000 people in 2000.
This recent price reduction to below US$100 per patient per year achieved by UNDP applies to the one-pill combination of three HIV medicines, known as TLE (Tenofovir, Lamivudine and Efavirenz), a regimen recommended by the World Health Organization (WHO) and most widely-used first-line antiretroviral therapy.
These savings free up funds for countries to put more people on treatment and keep more people alive. An extra US$25 million can now be used to put an additional 250,000 people on life-saving HIV treatment. Putting additional people on treatment contributes to curbing new infections and realizing the global goal of ending AIDS as a public health threat by 2030.
In 2014 alone, there were 1.2 million deaths from AIDS-related illnesses and two million new HIV infections. UNDP currently supports the implementation of HIV grants financed by the Global Fund in 19 countries. Through these programmes, 2.2 million people living with HIV currently receive life-saving antiretroviral therapy.