Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis or PrEP

Pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) involves putting HIV negative people on antiretroviral drugs (ARV) with the aim of protecting them from HIV infection. This blog looks at some of the pros and cons of PrEP.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Big Pharma Predicts PrEP Will Be Great, For Them

There's always a lot of talking up programs that cost heaps of money, never so much reflection on why throwing money at a problem (or at an industry) doesn't have the predicted effect. So it's surprising that an article by the BBC admits that the target to provide everyone who needs antiretroviral drugs (ARV) with them by 2010 has been missed. Only a third of those who need the drugs are receiving them, according to official figures (WHO, UNAIDS, etc).

There's a bit of hedging because WHO guidelines concerning the stage at which people need ARVs has changed, so the overall figure has gone up. But the target would have been missed, regardless. The figures sound very impressive, but it's hard to find a clear statement of how many people have received ARVs and whose supply has, for some reason, been cut off, how many are lost to follow up, how many have died or are not responding to treatment, how many are in need of second line drugs because they have developed resistance to first line treatment, how many are receiving second line drugs, etc.

For instance, some countries highlight incidents where money or drugs are going missing, but it's rarely made clear what impact that has on treatment or HIV transmission. And while articles constantly make statements such as "virtual elimination of mother-to-child transmission of the virus by 2015 is possible", other articles make it quite clear that there is a huge gap between optimistic press releases and what's happening on the ground. Only 24% of Ugandan children who need them are receiving ARVs, 150,000 are living with HIV, nearly 15,000 are born with the virus every year and 16,000 dye of AIDS every year. And Uganda has received far more money, and far more attention, than most other African countries.

It's good to hear that some pressure is being applied to countries with high HIV prevalence to make some of their own revenue available for the epidemic, and perhaps for health as a whole. So far, most of the money for ARV programs has come from external donors, but their funds are drying up. However, given the progress of attempting to put millions of sick people on drugs, how would a program that aims to put far higher numbers of healthy people on drugs fare?


1 comment:

Simon said...

On the other hand, you might read the UK Guardian's Global Development section, sponsored by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, where the 'UN Hails progress in tackling HIV and Aids':

Now that Gates is funding the Guardian, there should be lots more good news about development, at least, development projects that his Foundation is involved in.

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