Dr Aaron Motsoaledi, Minister of Health, says a landmark pricing deal announced by UNAids will accelerate the availability of the first affordable, generic, single-pill HIV treatment.
The agreement, which Motsoaledi helped unveil in New York on Thursday, could save South Africa an estimated R11-billion over six years. It could also revolutionise the treatment and management of HIV in low to middle income countries, boosting global efforts to get high-quality ARVs to all 36.7 million people living with HIV.
UNAids estimates that just over half of this number has access to the lifesaving medicines. The new fixed dose combination will be available to low and middle-income countries (LMICs) at a reduced price of US$75 (just under R1 000) per person, per year.
Motsoaledi said the pricing agreement is a breakthrough for the 3.9 million South Africans that rely on ARVs, particularly those in the public health sector.
Ramping up treatment with good viral suppression will enable us to reach HIV epidemic control more quickly. We are aiming at launching the new tender in April 2018.
South Africa’s HIV programme has grown from 923,000 patients on treatment in 2009 to 3.9m patients on treatment as of the end of August this year. In September 2016, the Motsoaledi announced the roll-out of the test and treat initiative with the aim to have 6 million HIV positive patients on treatment by 2022.
Apart from the financial savings, which will decrease pressure on the fiscus, its introduction will also have significant benefits for patients. Dolutegravir is a highly effective antiretroviral, which is well tolerated by patients and has fewer side effects. Patients are therefore more likely to be adherent and more likely to be virally suppressed – which means that they are not likely to transmit the virus to others.
The South African Government together with the Government of Kenya, in partnership with the Clinton Health Access Initiative (CHAI), the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS), the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation (BMGF), UNITAID, the United Kingdom’s Department for International Development (DFID), the United States President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), and the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria were all involved in this ground breaking pricing agreement.
“We estimate over the next six years, South Africa will potentially save about R11 billion; it is very critical,” Motsoaledi said, adding that he was excited about the agreement which would be of great benefit to patients due to its“superior therapeutic qualities”.
Coming in April
“Ramping up treatment with good viral suppression will enable us to reach HIV epidemic control more quickly. We are aiming at launching the new tender in April 2018,” Motsoaledi said.
South Africa’s commitment to make TLD available to patients was key to securing this ground-breaking pricing agreement.