|© UNICEF/HQ04-0167/ LEMOYNE|
|A child receives a dose of AZT - an anti-retroviral drug to impede the HIV virus - at lunchtime in the UNICEF-supported La Maison Arc-en-Ciel (Rainbow House) orphanage for children affected by HIV/AIDS, in Port-au-Prince, Haiti.|
By John Allison
NEW YORK, USA, 25 July 2006 – UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan met with top executives of nine of the world’s leading research-based and generic pharmaceutical companies to discuss how to work together to expand people’s access to HIV/AIDS prevention, treatment, care and support in low and middle-income countries.
Also participating in the meeting were Executive Director of UNICEF Ann M. Veneman, Executive Director of UNAIDS Dr. Peter Piot, United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) Administrator Kemal Dervis and Director General of the World Health Organization (WHO) Anders Nordström. It was the first such meeting to include manufacturers of generic drugs.
“The AIDS epidemic is still outpacing our efforts, and we need to work together in a broad partnership to step up the response,” said Mr. Annan. “I am pleased that the companies I met with today pledged to continue their efforts, in line with international commitments towards the goal of being as close as possible to universal access by 2010.”
Part of those efforts include several new initiatives by the pharmaceutical companies to make HIV medications more affordable and accessible, register their medications as widely as possible, and invest further in research and development of all HIV-related medications.
The goal of the UN agencies will be to help provide easier access to those medications through expanding the prequalification programme of medicines and diagnostics, updating guidelines on diagnosis, treatment, and product quality, and to work with individual countries to remove the tariffs and import duties which make medications and diagnostics more costly and less accessible.
“The UN will also step up its work with all partners -- Government, civil society and the private sector -- to ensure sustained political leadership and commitment; adequate resources; better access to voluntary testing and counselling; the promotion of human rights and gender equality; and the protection of all vulnerable groups,” said Mr. Annan.
“Progress on all these fronts is essential if we are to win the fight against HIV/AIDS -- the greatest challenge of our generation,” he added.