Mapping Pathways is a multi-national project to develop and nurture a research-driven, community-led global understanding of the emerging evidence base around the adoption of antiretroviral-based prevention strategies to end the HIV/AIDS epidemic. The evidence base is more than results from clinical trials - it must include stakeholder and community perspectives as well.

22 July 2011

Sharing Patents to Wipe Out AIDS

Not since the announcement in 1996 that antiretroviral therapy could effectively control H.I.V. has there been a season of AIDS news as hopeful as this one.  Trials of a new microbicide have brought positive results; ongoing studies of circumcision are showing that it gives strong, lasting, protection; a man has been cured of H.I.V. infection and new animal and clinical trials are raising hopes that he won’t be alone.

The research with the most immediate and dramatic impact, however, examines two novel ways to use those antiretroviral drugs.  People with H.I.V. who start their antiretroviral therapy as soon as they are diagnosed, instead of waiting for their immune systems to degrade, have a near-zero chance of passing the virus on to their sexual partners. This is the AIDS vaccine we’ve been waiting for — a 96 percent drop in infection rates is far better protection than any actual AIDS vaccine could  provide.  It has also now been shown that giving one antiretroviral pill a day to people who don’t have H.I.V. but are at very high risk for catching it can reduce their risk by two-thirds or more.

Taken together, these two methods of using antiretroviral drugs not just to treat AIDS, but also to prevent its spread, offer real hope of ending the epidemic.  But there’s a catch:  they require providing these drugs to millions, perhaps tens of millions, more people than are getting them now.  Someone has to pay for all this.

That’s why it matters that last week, Gilead Sciences, one of the most important manufacturers of AIDS drugs, became the first drug maker to join something called the Medicines Patent Pool, a two-year-old organization that was established by Unitaid, an international body dedicated to buying AIDS drugs. In joining the patent pool, Gilead agrees to let generic pharmaceutical companies copy four of its drugs for sale at very low prices in poor countries.  Gilead will get a small royalty for every copy sold.

Read the rest here.

[Content that is linked from other sources is for informational purposes and should not construe a Mapping Pathways position.]

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