Geneva, 13th May 2021 –
Unitaid is pleased to support the new Global Initiative to end Cryptococcal Meningitis deaths by 2030, launched on May 12th 2021 by key partners in the Cryptococcal Meningitis Advocacy Group. This target will help bring renewed focus on preventing the deaths of those living with HIV.
Cryptococcal Meningitis (CM) is a major cause of mortality among people living with HIV, accounting for 15% of the global 690,000 AIDS-related deaths in 2019 alone. An opportunistic infection, it primarily impacts those with weakened immune systems and is fatal if left untreated.
Screening for a weakened immune system – detected by low CD4 counts – and cryptococcal antigens at the same time as HIV is crucial if the goal of eliminating deaths from Cryptococcal Meningitis is to be achieved, as this enables patients to access treatment in good time before the disease progresses. Access to screening is also important during the course of HIV care.
Currently the lack of availability of diagnostics is one of the main barriers to preventing Cryptococcal Meningitis-related deaths. Unitaid is working to advance key innovations that address these challenges. The Unitaid-funded OPTIMAL project with the Clinton Health Access Initiative (CHAI) has seen the procurement of point-of-care tests for Cryptococcal Meningitis for seven early-adopter countries. Unitaid is also enabling the scaled-up use of point-of-care CD4 testing platforms and recently introduced the first device-free CD4 product, VISITEC. This presents a significant opportunity to facilitate access to same-day CD4 results, which is key to enabling timely management of meningitis and other opportunistic infections in healthcare settings away from big hospitals.
After screening for Cryptococcal Meningitis, immediate access to the right treatment or preventive medicine is the next important step. Unitaid’s Advanced HIV Disease Initiative has enabled a number of countries to achieve lower prices for optimised treatments, and continues to work towards the full implementation of manufacturers’ access initiatives.
Unitaid Executive Director, Dr Philippe Duneton, said: “This global initiative is important in bringing attention to the preventable deaths of those with advanced HIV disease. At Unitaid, we strive to support access to innovations to address the testing, prevention and treatment of Cryptococcal Meningitis, and support the goal of eliminating deaths from this illness by 2030. We are committed to continue working with all stakeholders towards full access to the optimal package of care for advanced HIV disease, and we expect manufacturers to urgently collaborate to address remaining access obstacles for key populations. In particular, we expect Gilead to increase their efforts to respond to the commitment made more than two years ago with regards to amphotericin B liposomal. This life-saving medicine still remains out of reach for many who need it most.”
In view of the persistent challenges in accessing amphotericin B liposomal, Unitaid is conducting scoping activities through partners so that countries can source products from alternative producers in the future and meet the needs in low and middle-income countries.
Unitaid is a global health agency engaged in finding innovative solutions to prevent, diagnose and treat diseases more quickly, cheaply and effectively, in low- and middle-income countries. Its work includes funding initiatives to address major diseases such as HIV/AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis, as well as HIV co-infections and co-morbidities such as cervical cancer and hepatitis C, and cross-cutting areas, such as fever management. Unitaid is now applying its expertise to address challenges in advancing new therapies and diagnostics for the COVID-19 pandemic, serving as a key member of the Access to COVID Tools Accelerator. Unitaid is hosted by the World Health Organization. www.unitaid.org
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