HIV Drug Implemented in Kenya
In 2017, there were approximately 36.9 million people living with HIV/AIDS worldwide. Additionally, 6.1 million of those with HIV were located in western and central Africa. Kenya, a country in eastern Africa, had approximately 1.5 million people living with HIV/AIDs in 2017. That same year, an HIV drug implemented in Kenya started to successfully combat this deadly immune system virus. Unitaid and the Kenyan government simultaneously introduced it to the country.

Dolutegravir and Antiretroviral Therapy

The new HIV/AIDS drug, Dolutegravir or DTG, received approval in 2014 and is the most recent and effective antiretroviral drug used in the treatment against HIV/AIDs. DTG has been the drug of choice in high-income countries for its antiresistance properties, few side effects and easy one pill a day treatment. In 2015, the World Health Organization recommended this drug replace other first-line regimens for adults and adolescents. Recently this drug was not available in low-income countries, like Kenya, because of its high cost.

In 2018, only 62 percent of people with HIV/AIDs had access to antiretroviral therapy, which was an increase from the previous year. This corresponds to the 23.3 million people who were able to receive treatment, however, approximately 14.6 million people could not access treatment. In Kenya, 75 percent of adults with HIV/AIDs received treatment in 2018, which increased from 2016, when only 64 percent of people received treatment. One reason for the increase in HIV/AIDs testing is the partnerships between the government of Kenya and Unitaid that began in 2017 which introduced the generic brand of DTG.

Now, the generic brand of this life-saving drug has been available to people in Kenya since early 2018. This new HIV drug implemented in Kenya has the potential to make life-saving drugs more accessible to those who would normally not be able to afford it. In 2017, a number of nonprofits including the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Unitaid, USAID, PEPFAR and others agreed to a pricing agreement to help make the drug more affordable in developing countries. This pricing agreement would allow public sector purchases at $75 per person, per year.

Side Effects of Other Drugs

Before the introduction of DTG, the first-line drug in Kenya was Efavirenz, an antiretroviral medication with side effects for some users including nausea, dizziness, rash and headaches. When the pricing agreement first emerged, the Kenyan Ministry of Health decided that the first round of DTG it distributed would go to 27,000 people who suffered the negative side effects from efavirenz. Then, the Ministry of Health assigned various other health clinics to receive the drug until it could become available to the entire country.

The number of new HIV/AIDs diagnoses in Kenya has halved over the last decade to approximately 80,000 people a year. The new HIV drug implemented in Kenya will only help decrease the number of people suffering from HIV/AIDs. Comprehensive sex education, HIV/AIDs testing centers and the continuation of drug pricing agreements will help alleviate the prevalence of HIV in developing countries, like Kenya.

Hayley Jellison
Photo: Flickr

Malaria in South AsiaEvery two minutes a child dies of Malaria worldwide. This potentially fatal disease has resurged in many countries in South Asia and surrounding Australia. A big attributor to this is the fact that infected mosquitos are developing resistance to the insecticides that are typically used in bed nets.

Papua New Guinea, for example, experienced a 400 percent surge in malaria cases between 2010 and 2016 and had 3,000 deaths due to the disease in 2016 alone. Additionally, the disease is more commonly drug-resistant than it used to be, which is leading to an increase in fatality levels.

Obstacles To Eradicating Malaria

Contributing to the spread of the disease is the lack of necessary funding to properly eradicate it. WHO needs between $6-9 billion to fight malaria, but there is currently only around $2.5 billion is being allocated. WHO had a goal to eliminate malaria by 2030, but due to its resurgence and the lack of funding, the likelihood of that being achieved is not high.

Malaria is known as a “disease of poverty.” Its prevalence in certain regions is indicative of the poverty rates in that area. Communities living in poverty are significantly less likely to have access to bed nets and insecticides among other tools to fight malaria. Lack of education also contributes to the lack of knowledge of how to prevent and treat malaria and, consequently, causes a rise in fatalities.

The disease often returns after a period of success in mitigating it. After malaria in South Asia has been successfully fought off, healthcare groups will focus on other diseases and stop actively maintaining the fight against malaria. This dynamic allows for a resurgence of the disease and perpetuates a cycle of malaria spreading.

Organizations Fighting Malaria

Luckily, there are developing solutions on the market. A new drug called Tafenoquine is giving hope to leading malaria experts. The treatment is taken over the course of two days, which is an advantage compared to the previously used treatment, Primaquine, which is taken over twelve days. The shorter treatment time increases the likelihood that those infected will comply and finish treatment.

There are also organizations that are putting their efforts towards eradicating the resurgence of malaria in South Asia. Unitaid has been putting money behind the development of simpler and easier treatments. The group has been collecting data in South Asia to better inform their efforts in addition to surveying in malaria-ridden sub-Saharan Africa.

Working alongside Unitaid is The Asia Pacific Leaders Malaria Alliance Secretariat (APLMA). This group focuses not only on increasing innovation in malaria treatments but on providing access to treatments in at-risk communities. Many low-income regions are hard to reach, so APLMA has been looking for new and faster ways to get to these areas.

The efforts to reach at-risk communities are just as important as the work in developing new treatments. All the innovative treatments in the world could be discovered, but they would not matter if the people infected could not access them.

Thanks to Unitaid and APLMA’s projects, the outlook for malaria in South Asia is looking up. Technological advancements and expedited transportation are expected to assist in eliminating the disease.

– Amelia Merchant
Photo: Flickr

Poverty ReductionA global health organization is utilizing innovative financing to generate funding for international development. The organization, called UNITAID, is revolutionizing international development through charitable giving. Funds are currently being generated from a small surcharge added to the cost of flying out of France.

UNITAID is an organization that was originally conceived by French President Jacque Chirac and Brazilian President Lula. It is a World Health Organization global health initiative. Less than a decade ago, an airline levy was implemented through UNITAID, which adds between one and four euro to the cost of plane tickets.

Along with France, eleven other countries have adopted the new practice. In the short amount of time that the surcharge has been enacted, the levy has raised more than $2 billion. Over the course of only eight years, $2.5 billion has been raised, which is being used to improve international development in low-income countries.

More specifically, the money raised has improved access to treatments and diagnostics for HIV/AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis in less developed countries. For travelers, the small added cost is painless and relatively unnoticeable. The chairman of UNITAID, however, stresses the levy’s importance in the grand scheme of things.

Phillipe Douste-Blazy, the undersecretary-general of the United Nations, chairman of UNITAID, and mastermind behind the ticket surcharge program has stated, “With one euro, you can save children from malaria.” By breaking down the program’s significance into layman’s terms like this, he has painted the bigger picture for us.

The program’s ability to raise such a significant amount of funding in so little time has inspired Douste-Blazy to envision more potential fundraising solutions for other global crises. Namely, the funds could potentially be used to tackle the current migration crisis.

Douste-Blazy knows that disease and lack of health care options are two major factors that force migrants to seek refuge across international borders. An expansion of the current levy could bring dramatic improvements in the standards of living in migrants’ home countries.

A report released recently by the U.N.’s refugee agency revealed that most people fleeing to Europe by sea are attempting to escape conditions like war, persecution and other dangerous conflicts. Europe’s current response to deploying police and soldiers to intercept the migrants isn’t sustainable or cost-effective.

The biggest challenge of international development and poverty reduction strategies is funding. With countries facing significant debt and Greece – the number one recipient of overseas refugees – facing bankruptcy, money can no longer be appropriately allocated in traditional ways.

Douste-Blazy calls his proposed solution “painless solidarity contribution.” The process of taking small additional amounts of money out of existing financial transactions could bring money to the developing world that will not be missed anywhere else.

For the post-2015 agenda, UNITAID’s program offers an important lesson. Douste-Blazy explains, “As the needs are increasing, the money is decreasing, so we need to do something innovative.” Public engagement around the issue of poverty and international development is absolutely essential and can bring unprecedented results.

Sarah Bernard

Sources: Huffington Post, Foreign Policy
Photo: Wikipedia

Finding ways to fund global health programs can be tricky. Private sources of funding are difficult to secure, and raising taxes or increasing national budgets is sometimes politically untenable. That’s why UNITAID, a broadly supported organization that emphasizes innovative financing, is starting to gain some traction.

In early 2005, several countries including France, Germany, Brazil, Chile and Spain commissioned studies to develop efficient ways to fund the global health benchmarks set forth in the Millennium Development Goals. In September of that year, during a U.N. conference on that same topic in France, then-president Jacques Chirac declared a levy on French airline ticket sales that would finance a drug-purchasing program.

Shortly thereafter, UNITAID was founded by France, Norway, the United Kingdom, Brazil and Chile. This organization’s focus is the effective treatment of HIV/AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis via innovative financing methods. But what is innovative financing? In this context, innovative financing is essentially any low-impact, targeted tax which is aimed at funding global health programs.

The aforementioned airline ticket levy was the earliest example of such a tax. The levy is designed to be a robust, stable public funding source that doesn’t affect business. And indeed, the levy has been a great success in France. The modest €1 per ticket levy manages to raise about €160 million in revenue per year and did not experience much fluctuation after the global financial crisis in 2008. And a report by the French National Assembly in 2011 found that the levy had “no negative effect on traffic or on air sector jobs.”

Not all of the 29 states who support UNITAID have implemented an airline ticket levy (thus far only Chile, Madagascar, Mauritius, Niger and South Korea have implemented these measures). However, other measures have been proposed or implemented which achieve the same effect. For example, Norway sets aside a portion of its taxes on carbon to UNITAID.

Another innovation developed by France in 2012 is the financial transaction tax, or FTT. The FTT is a negligible fee attached to any sale of a financial instrument such as a bond or stock. The tax is designed to have no effect on the volume of financial exchanges, yet is capable of raising huge amounts of revenue in countries who sustain many financial transactions. In fact, the idea of an FTT is not a new one; famous 20th century economist John Maynard Keynes was a proponent of implementing FTTs to discourage financial speculation. Many countries already have FTTs for this reason. UNITAID simply proposes that revenue from FTTs be applied towards financing global health initiatives.

In September 2014, UNITAID developed another financing method: the taxation of extractive resources such as oil. The Republic of Congo agreed to a tax on oil, and UNITAID hopes that other African nations will follow suit. The revenue from these taxes will be set aside to reduce malnutrition, which is a leading cause of death among children.

While finding innovative sources of funding is UNITAID’s primary role, the organization also seeks market solutions towards the more effective distribution of medicines for tuberculosis, HIV/AIDS and malaria. They accomplish this by channeling funds towards identifying and promoting improved health commodities, expanding the market potential for low-profit medicines and making their distribution more efficient and inexpensive. The idea is that medicines and medical tests need to be less expensive and easier to distribute so they can reach a greater number of people.

There are no silver bullets when it comes to financing global health. Funding needs to come from a variety of consistent sources, and it needs to be dispersed efficiently. National spending on foreign aid continues to have the greatest funding potential; the $2.5 billion raised by the airline ticket levy in 8 years just doesn’t measure up to the $30 billion that the United States spends on foreign aid every year. Even so, every bit of funding matters, and to solve global health issues, it’s going to require every innovative solution available.

Derek Marion

Sources: Huffington Post, UNITAID, World Bank, OECD
Photo: Comunica Extend

In an interview with the Inter Press Service News Agency, UNITAID chair Philippe Douste-Blazy stressed the importance of “innovative financing” in closing the global poverty gap.

Mr. Blazy, who is also the UN Under-Secretary General in charge of Innovative Financing for Development, made these remarks leading up to the Third International Conference for Financing and Development in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, which concluded on July 16. The conference, which included “heads of state and government, and ministers of Finance, Foreign Affairs and Development Cooperation, as well as all relevant institutional stakeholders, non-governmental organizations and business sector entities,” focused on financing solutions in the fight against global poverty.

Issues addressed at the conference included funding sustainable energy for the world’s poor, ways to finance gender equality programs and funding access to water. These are issues that are traditionally focused on, but focusing on them from the perspective of financing allows for sustainable and long-term solutions.

These solutions are imperative to closing the poverty gap. Instead of leaving innovative ideas that remain unfunded and, ultimately, unfulfilled, they provide solutions with a plan.

The initiatives proposed at the conference are ambitious. They include a plan from the Netherlands to provide 30 million people with water and 50 million with sanitary facilities, an effort by nonprofit Solar Sister to fight energy poverty and empower African women, and a commitment by Germany to “lift 500 million people in developing countries out of hunger and malnutrition by 2030.”

Though these goals are lofty, they are imperative in addressing the issue of global poverty in the future. And addressing that issue is imperative in ensuring a safer and more secure world, according to Mr. Blazy, who warned that “if we don’t close the poverty gap, the 21st century will end in extreme violence.” With the stakes higher than they’ve ever been, the financial solutions chosen today will clearly be important tomorrow.

Andrew Michaels

Sources: Financing for Development Conference 1, Financing for Development Conference 2, Financing for Development Conference 3, Solar Sister, IPS News, IISD Reporting Services
Photo: IPS News

In an interview with the British publication The Guardian, Philippe Douste-Blazy, special adviser to the U.N. secretary-general on innovative finance for development, and chairman of the global health partnership Unitaid,  discussed his interest in development, its relationship to poverty and extremism, and the goals of his organization.

Douste-Blazy recounted how his interest in development was sparked by a conversation he had with former French President Chirac, who emphasized for him the  political importance of caring for the 1.5 billion people living in extreme poverty. Chirac’s arguments helped convince Douste-Blazy that the more the world becomes interconnected, the more inequality there is, and that “breed[s] ground for conflict.” Douste-Blazy personalized these issues by stating that if he were an 18-year old living in a developing country and he had to watch his family die from malaria because “the world could not give them less than a pound while knowing that in London or Paris a couple may spend 100 [euros] on dinner, [he could] understand how poverty can be a catalyst for extremist views.”

In his interview Douste-Blazy also described how Unitaid, which uses innovative financing to help facilitate accessibility to the diagnosis and treatment of HIV/AIDS, Malaria, and Tuberculosis in developing countries, started off with the concept of raising plane ticket prices by 1 euro and donating that 1 to raise these funds. Unitaid was established in 2006 by Brazil, Chile, France, Norway, and the U.K. Today, various members support this mission, including organizations from the global south. Douste-Blazy asserted that this mission’s key goal is to show the international community that this “levy tax on plane tickets” can produce solid results through new financing models further beyond the U.N. Millennium Development Goals. To address the financial problems of development, he said that there is a need for “new sources of innovative financing,” that invest in the poor of today so that they can become the “economic actors of tomorrow” cutting off the ties between poverty and extremism.

Leen Abdallah

Source: Guardian