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UNAIDS/UNICEF/WHO Joint Press Release

Initiative to Promote Access to Quality HIV Medicines Releases First Batch of Results Today

March 20, 2002

Geneva -- A new effort to assess the quality of HIV medicines could make treatment services more accessible to poor countries. The World Health Organization (WHO) has evaluated several HIV-related medicines and today publishes the first list of products which were found to meet WHO recommended standards. This initial phase of the project includes forty products from eight branded and generic manufacturers. Managed by WHO, the initiative counts on the expertise of UNICEF and the UNAIDS Secretariat, and is supported by the UN Population Fund (UNFPA) and the World Bank.

"The project demonstrates the vital contributions research-based and generic companies can make to innovation, quality, and access to life-saving medicines," says Gro Harlem Brundtland, Director-General of WHO. "We want to see an expansion in people's access to quality health care, particularly in relation to those diseases, like HIV/AIDS, that keep them poor and prevent the economic development of their communities."

The Access to Quality HIV/AIDS Drugs and Diagnostics project is part of a UN-wide strategy to improve access to HIV treatment. The strategy is meant to promote rational use of drugs; affordable prices for medicines and diagnostics; sustainable financing; and reliable health and supply systems.

"This process will assist countries, as well as UNICEF and other agencies, in the procurement of quality products for HIV treatment," says Carol Bellamy, Executive Director of UNICEF.

"This UN initiative marks an important step in increasing the number of qualified suppliers of HIV medicines and improving the procurement of these drugs for people living with HIV/AIDS in developing countries," says Dr Peter Piot, UNAIDS Executive Director. "We hope this project will help HIV-positive people gain greater access to affordable HIV medicines of good quality."

The list released today includes eleven anti-retrovirals (ARVs) and five products for opportunistic infections. The ARVs on the list allow for several triple therapy combinations.

The pilot project evaluates pharmaceutical products according to WHO recommended standards of quality and for compliance with Good Manufacturing Practices. It is just the beginning of an ongoing process that will keep adding products and suppliers to its list, as and when they are found to meet the set standards. The list is now available on the websites of WHO and the other collaborating agencies. So far, eight companies have been evaluated but another 13 suppliers and 100 products are currently under review.

"We are involved in a dynamic process," explains Jonathan Quick, Director of Essential Drugs and Medicines Policy at WHO. "We expect that the list will grow steadily as more companies take an interest in participating and countries expand their HIV/AIDS programmes."

Appropriate diagnostic support is essential to monitoring the progression of AIDS, the success of medical treatment and the extent of viral resistance to medication. Through its department of Blood Safety and Clinical Technology, WHO is also evaluating HIV test kits and technologies to monitor HIV drug treatment.

In addition, guidelines on minimum requirements for laboratory monitoring of HIV drug treatment are being developed. WHO is also developing training and quality assessment programmes for health care workers to ensure correct use of diagnostic tests.

HIV/AIDS has become the leading cause of mortality in Africa; out of the 40 million people living with AIDS in the world, 28 million are in Africa. In Asia and the Pacific, AIDS is rapidly spreading. An estimated 7.1 million people are now living with HIV/AIDS in the region.

The first list of products and suppliers assessed by the Access to Quality HIV/AIDS Drugs and Diagnostics project is available on WHO Web site:

For more information, please contact Daniela Bagozzi, WHO, Geneva, (+41 22) 791 4544, mobile (+41 79) 475 5490.

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This article was provided by UNAIDS. Visit UNAIDS' website to find out more about their activities, publications and services.
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