USAID has recognised the expertise of two South African-led consortia to address the global challenge of treating those infected by HIV/AIDS.
These consortia are led by Right to Care and the Wits Reproductive Health and HIV Institute (Wits RHI). They will apply the innovations and lessons learned in South Africa to strengthen programmes in countries across Africa.
Right to Care, a non-profit organisation that offers prevention, care and treatment for HIV, TB, cervical cancer, medical male circumcision and sexually transmitted infections is leading the Equip consortium of five organisations that have developed a variety of innovative approaches to HIV care and treatment. These include Anova Health Institute, Khethimpilo, Maternal Adolescent and Child Health Systems (MatCH) and Partners in Hope. They have strong relationships with USAID missions and departments of health as well as more than fifty years of collective experience working in HIV/AIDS in Africa.
Wits RHI, a leading academic research institution working in the fields of sexual reproductive health, HIV and vaccinology, will lead efforts to simplify treatment by investigating how medicine for HIV can become more effective and affordable. The consortium includes ICAP at Columbia University, Mylan Laboratories, the University of Liverpool and the Medicines Patent Pool. The consortium will be supported by key partners including UNITAID and the South African Medical Research Council (SAMRC).
The consortia will work to simplify treatment; increase HIV testing and access to treatment; link people living with HIV to care; develop laboratory capacity; target most at-risk populations to ensure they continue to follow prescribed treatment and receive the proper care, and reduce the cost and increase the effectiveness of ART through research and innovation.
The US Government and multinational agencies such as UNAIDS have set three key targets for the global campaign in fighting HIV/AIDS: 90% of HIV positive people should be identified; 90% should be in care and on treatment; and 90% should have an undetectable viral load.
On 1st December, in his World AIDS Day message, US President Obama reinforced the commitment of the US to end the spread of HIV and improve the lives of all who live with it. USAID and the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) is working to fast track a path to reach the “90-90-90” targets. With the release of the new WHO guidelines recommending a “treat-all” approach, the global community must work to scale-up and expand programmes for care and treatment of HIV-positive individuals.
“To achieve these global HIV/AIDS targets, the global community must more than double the number of people being served. However, in a landscape of finite financial resources we must seek simple, sustainable, and inexpensive ways of delivering antiretroviral therapy (ART) programmes throughout the world,” said Director of the Office of HIV/AIDS at USAID, David Stanton.
Innovations in ART over the past three decades have converted HIV/AIDS from a fatal illness with few treatment options to one that is treated with a single daily tablet. However, UNAIDS estimates that global treatment targets of 30 million HIV-positive individuals on ART by 2030, which is double the present figure of 15 million individuals on ART, will create significant cost, as well as operational and manufacturing challenges for governments and health systems.
As ART makes up a significant cost of HIV treatment programmes, reducing costs through research and innovation will result in substantial resources being available to treat more people.
CEO of Right to Care, Prof Ian Sanne, said: “We are delighted to have been selected by USAID to provide technical assistance and share the innovations which have been developed in South Africa with the rest of the world. South African organisations leading projects of this scale indicates that our experience expertise and skill have been recognised by our peers in the healthcare sector.”
Deputy Executive Director of Strategy and Development at Wits RHI, Dr Eugene Sickle, added, “Our international consortium offers a co-ordinated attempt to establish the best and most affordable treatments for those living with HIV/AIDS. We will work with academics, researchers, business, and governments to achieve this goal.”
Both consortia, supported by USAID and PEPFAR, stand poised to revolutionise treatment and care for people living with HIV/AIDS. Through collaboration and innovation to develop and sustainably provide simpler, cheaper, more effective drugs, the global community can achieve the reality of an AIDS-free generation.