UNITAID Grants Focus on Childhood HIV/AIDS, Malaria and Tuberculosis


UNITAID announces it has made new grants to allow hundreds of thousands of children in developing countries to access better and more affordable medicines for HIV/AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis (TB).

For too long now, the global health community has done too little to meet the special needs of children living with these diseases in poor countries, says Dr. Philippe Douste-Blazy, chairman of the UNITAID Executive Board. With very few child-adapted treatments available, both pediatric HIV and tuberculosis have been at risk of becoming neglected diseases. UNITAIDs new investments will enable the production of adapted treatments and help put these diseases back on the global agenda.

At its 17th meeting this week, the UNITAID executive board reviewed the largest ever number of proposals put for its consideration and committed up to $120 million for projects which address particular treatment and diagnostics needs that will help save thousands of lives a year in low-income countries.

Highlighted among these grants are

-      Up to $34 million to the Medicines for Malaria Venture (MMV) to accelerate the global adoption of injectable artesunate, the best treatment for the 8 million annual cases of severe malaria, occurring mostly in under-five-year-olds in Sub-Saharan Africa.

-      Up to $17.3 million to the Drugs for Neglected Diseases initiative (DNDi) to make child-adapted pediatric HIV treatments available. This project will help save the lives of some of the 72 percent of children that require life-saving HIV treatment but dont have access.

-      Up to $16.7 million to the TB Alliance to support the production of appropriate paediatric TB medicine formulations. Currently, a lack of child-adapted TB medicines contributes to high morbidity among children.

In addition to these principle grants, the UNITAID executive board approved four market entry grants to help manufacturers of point-of-care HIV diagnostic machines in the final stages of development get over the hurdles of  making their products available to those in need.

These investments follow a rigorous year-long process of in-depth market intelligence led by the UNITAID Secretariat, which landscaped and analysed the market for treatments and diagnostics to inform the current round of grant-making decisions, adds Douste-Blazy. I commend the Secretariat for providing the expertise to make these new projects a reality. This work will soon be translated into lives saved through the provision of better health products that these projects will ensure.

All of these new grants build on UNITAIDs successful efforts over the last six years to scale-up medicines and diagnostics for HIV/AIDS, malaria and TB. The UNITAID executive board also approved up to US$ 8 million to continue one such existing project which ensures that procurement of paediatric HIV medicines will continue into 2013-2014. A positive decision regarding the request from the Global Fund for an extension of funding of the Affordable Medicines Facility malaria (AMFm) is expected in January. Finally, the Executive Board also confirmed its commitment to supporting the WHO Prequalification of Medicines Programme on a multi-year basis.

UNITAID is a global health initiative launched in 2006 by the governments of Brazil, Chile, France, Norway and the United Kingdom to provide sustainable funding for the fight against HIV/AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis. About 70 percent of UNITAIDs funds come from a small levy on airline tickets. Through implementers, UNITAID finances the purchase of quality-assured drugs and diagnostics for patients in poor countries, using its market power to expand supply, promote development of new and better products, cut delivery lead times and reduce prices.

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