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Thailand to Offer Low-Cost Antiretroviral Drugs to All HIV-Positive Residents

July 15, 2005

Thailand plans to provide low-cost antiretroviral drugs to the more than 500,000 HIV-positive people that live in the country, the Ministry of Public Health announced on Wednesday, the AP/Yahoo! Asia News reports. Thailand already provides antiretrovirals at no cost to about 50,000 low-income HIV-positive people under a pilot program that provides basic care to all Thai people. However, the expanded program would make Thailand "the first country in the world to give every person living with AIDS access to antiretroviral drugs," according to a health ministry statement. The fixed-dose, combination, generic drug to be offered by the government -- known as GPO-VIR -- was first produced in 2002 by Thailand's Government Pharmaceutical Organization. The pill contains the antiretrovirals stavudine, lamivudine and nevirapine, a combination recommended by the World Health Organization (Tang, AP/Yahoo! Asia News, 7/13). Under the plan, HIV-positive individuals who have CD4+ T cell counts below 200 cells per cubic millimeter will receive the medication first, ministry officials said (Agence France-Presse, 7/14). The government plans to make the pill available through its health care plan in October. Thailand also exports generic drugs to neighboring countries, such as Cambodia, and might offer the technology to some African countries (Cheng, BBC News, 7/14).

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