UNITAID Launches First-Ever Comprehensive Report on HIV Prevention Products

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Shows Promise to Curb Transmission if High Prices Can Be Reduced

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There is an acute shortage of affordable prevention products for women and girls – this must change.

The rate of new HIV infections in adults and adolescents has not fallen since 2007, but an unprecedented range of new products to prevent transmission of the disease could reduce the 2.5 million new HIV infections each year if they are made affordable, according to a report released today by UNITAID.

In the only comprehensive study to date of the market for HIV prevention tools, UNITAID shows how high prices, low manufacturing capacity and demand are still barriers to the use of these products in developing countries.

“While male condoms are a cost-effective and successful tool to prevent transmission of HIV, other products will hopefully soon be available,” said UNITAID Executive Director Dr Denis Broun. “Yet many of these – such as male circumcision devices or HIV treatment-based methods – are not yet available, not yet approved for use, or are too expensive for the world’s poorest.”

UNITAID’s report shows the pitfalls of monopolistic markets for some of these devices. A recent example occurred in May 2013, when the World Health Organization approved a non-surgical adult male circumcision device for the first time. Known as PrePex™, each easy-to-produce device reportedly costs around US$ 20, leading to UNITAID to call for more market competition to bring prices down. Unless additional manufacturers enter the market and more research funding is made available, prices could stay high. Circumcising adult men reduces the risk of female-to-male HIV transmission by 60%.

UNITAID’s report also describes the pipeline for a number of “female-initiated” devices, such as female condoms and vaginal microbicide gels. Female condoms are 20 times more expensive than male condoms, however new innovation in this space holds promise for improving acceptability and production expansion could increase affordability. Meanwhile, antiretroviral-based microbicide gels have also shown promise, with one clinical trial in 2010 South Africa showing a 39% reduction in HIV infection. Currently, no gel is yet approved for use and UNITAID’s report shows that only two products have a likely chance of being rolled out over the next several years.

“Worldwide, a woman is newly infected with HIV every minute and in a country like South Africa, 12.7% of schoolgirls are HIV positive,” added Dr Broun. “There is an acute shortage of affordable prevention products for women and girls – this must change.”

According to UNAIDS, focusing resources on the most cost-effective HIV prevention interventions would avert 12.2 million new infections and 7.4 million deaths during the current decade.

This report is part of UNITAID’s ongoing intelligence gathering for HIV, malaria and tuberculosis commodities, to inform its own investments and provide a service for the global health community at large. UNITAID is currently accepting funding applications for its next round of investments that are aligned with UNITAID’s 2013-2016 Strategic Objectives. These objectives include prevention products for HIV/AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis.

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http://www.unitaid.eu/images/marketdynamics/publications/UNITAID-HIV_Preventives_Landscape-1st_edition.pdf

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Clare COURTNEY
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