AIDS in Africa: The Road Forward - Pharmaceutical Executive


AIDS in Africa: The Road Forward
Industry pioneers have already taken the first steps to address the AIDS crisis in Africa. But the fate of the millions infected—and those yet to be—lies in companies building upon the promise of their progress. This conclusion of Joanna Breitstein's report shows how they are working to craft tomorrow's models today.

Pharmaceutical Executive

So what models allow for rapid expansion? One that has gained attention is the Baylor International Pediatric AIDS Initiative, which includes a network of ten clinics. The concept dates back to 1996, when Mark Kline, MD, of the Baylor College of Medicine visited Romania and saw the desperate plight of children with AIDS there. With funding from Abbott's Step Forward program, Kline rebuilt the crumbling Constanta Municipal Hospital. And within just a few years, mortality rates in HIV-positive children dropped from 15 to three percent. The clinic worked so well that Abbott funded centers in Tanzania, Burkina Faso, and India—and expects to announce another clinic in Africa shortly.

"Mark's work in Romania could be considered an UNAIDS best practice case study," says Reeta Roy, divisional vice president, global citizenship and policy at Abbott. "We must create as many Romanias with as many people as possible to create the strongest impact."

Working Together Back in 2000, the Accelerating Access Initiative (AAI) brought together competing companies to figure out how to reduce the price of ARVs in nations hardest hit by AIDS. Today, almost half of all patients that access ARVs in Africa do so through AAI programs—a testament to what companies can do when they work together. Other organizations also broker company relationships:

Partnership for Quality Medical Donations Twenty-one organizations, including 10 pharmas, comprise this membership organization that is dedicated to raising the global standards for product donations.

Global Business Coalition on HIV/AIDS This group focuses on bringing business into the fight against AIDS and includes a special section for healthcare companies.

Companies have also been creating alliances on their own. Merck went into Romania early on to establish a foundation to the fight: their funding helped health authorities understand the scope of the disease and develop Romania's first national AIDS treatment guidelines. Abbott leveraged that groundwork by funding Mark Kline's pediatric AIDS clinic there. Then, BMS decided to build two new clinics in Africa, working closely with Abbott to replicate the Romanian model's success.

Abbott has also worked closely with BI, in a venture where BI donated Viramune and Abbott donated the Determine rapid HIV test. "That's an example where each company had a tool to help NGOs cut the risk of mother-to-child transmission of AIDS," Roy says.

Despite these joint efforts, there is still more work to be done. "Companies work with groups based on the relationships they cultivate," says Dickson Opul, MD, who treats the HIV-positive working population in Uganda. "We don't see the effort as AAI, but as individual companies."

To push programs to the next level, companies must work together to create common strategies and shared world views. In doing so, they can secure their places as both innovators and global citizens by offering help to policy makers, who must tackle even bigger, more systemic issues like poverty reduction and free trade.


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