In a significant development addressing the medicinal needs of people living with HIV and TB, UNITAID, a frontal organisation of the United Nations and the World Health Organisation (WHO), has asked India to be signatory.
Talking to ANI from Geneva, Dr. Sundar, a physician, who is a part of UNITAID in India, said, "If India aggress to join this initiative like that of over 30 other countries, this would save millions of people living with HIV and TB, who need Second Line Drugs (SLD) for their survival."
Further, he said that the National AIDS Control Organisation (NACO), a nodal agency in India, should take up this initiative.
According to Dr. Sundar, Geneva-based UNITAID, has already appealed to Indian Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh in this regard and is waiting for a response.
With the rise in cases of deadly and highly contagious Multi-Drug Resistant Tuberculosis (MDR-TB), Extensively Drug Resistant Tuberculosis (XDR-TB) and HIV, second line medication is a s vital as the First Line Drugs.
SLD are the only hope for sustaining life, yet these drugs are much more expensive and as the market are less developed, often impossible to find where they are needed.
Although, at present, India provides first line treatment for HIV and TB free of cost, access to the second line of lifesaving drugs is denied to all those without means to buy these essential but expensive medicines.
UNITAID is an international drug purchase facility to accelerate access to high quality drugs and diagnostics for HIV/AIDS, malaria and TB in developing countries.
Launched in 2006, UNITAID is hosted and administered by WHO with an operational budget of over 300 millions dollars collected through air ticket levy.
Brazil, Chile, France, Norway, United Kingdom, Spain, South Korea, and many African and Asian Countries are members. These countries are raising funds through air ticket levy and wants India to join and raise funds through a small air ticket levy to save millions.
WHO, UNICEF, Global Fund, Clinton Foundation and Global Drug Facility are operating partners to UNITAID.
India has over three million people living with HIV and the second line drugs are crucial to save millions of life. It is crucial that India joins the UNITAID.
For Celina D'Costa of Indian Network for People Living with HIV/AIDS, in Delhi, one of the oldest living with HIV, the Indian initiative was crucial and saves millions of lives who need second line drugs.
For Stanzin Dawa of Alliance in India, an NGO supporting community action on AIDS in India, this initiative helps millions to afford second line drugs and a small air ticket levy would save millions.
According to sources, more than 20 countries have already levied an air ticket tax including France, South Korea, Chile and some other countries.
In the year since it was established, the international drug purchase facility UNITAID has managed to reduce the price of HIV treatments for children by almost 40 percent, and those for second-line antiretroviral (ARV) drugs by between 25 percent and 50 percent respectively.
In collaboration with the Clinton Foundation, UNITAID has also delivered more than 33 000 paediatric treatments against HIV/AIDS and is on course to meet the needs of 100 000 children by the end of 2007.