05 September 2012 - UNITAID founding countries Brazil and Chile pledged their ongoing support to UNITAID in a series of high-level meetings last August. Executive Director Denis Broun and Director of Operations Raquel Child led UNITAID’s visit to Brazil and Chile, which resulted in a series of exciting joint ventures between UNITAID and these two key actors in global health.
Latin America and UNITAID - A new way forward
UNITAID’s delegation met with Dr. Alexandre Padilha, Brazilian Minister of Health and Dr. Jorge Díaz, Undersecretary for Public Health at the Chilean Ministry of Health. Both officials reiterated their countries’ long-standing commitment to UNITAID since its founding in 2006. Moreover, Brazil and Chile noted that ministerial support for UNITAID is not only limited to the Ministry of Health – now Ministries of Foreign Affairs were also involved in governing UNITAID.
Both countries also acknowledged UNITAID’s impact on health care markets in Latin America. Brazilian officials pointed out UNITAID’s recent announcement of a significant price reduction for a new rapid diagnostic test for tuberculosis, the Xpert MTB/RIF assay. Brazil will use this cheaper price to increase rapid TB screening in high-risk areas within its own country, including poor communities and prison settings.
Chile was the first country to adopt UNITAID’s air ticket levy and Brazil donates from its treasury budget the equivalent of US$ 2 per international flight.
The UNITAID delegation also met with the heads of the development agencies for both countries - Ambassador Fernando José Marroni de Abreu, Director of the Brazilian Agency for Cooperation and Jorge Daccarett, Executive Director of the Chilean International Cooperation Agency. Both agencies agreed to provide technical support to UNITAID-supported countries on best use of health products. Brazil will concentrate on supporting UNITAID in Lusophone countries in Africa while Chile will focus on Latin American countries.
Engaging local generic producers
The UNITAID delegation discussed joint opportunities with the emerging generic industries in both countries – a sector which has contributed to increased access to life-saving drugs in Latin America and abroad.
In Brazil, local generic manufacturers have contributed to the country’s success story in providing HIV treatment. Brazil provides free antiretroviral treatment to around 220,000 people living with HIV—a coverage of 69%. The UNITAID delegation visited Far-Manguinhos, a government-run laboratory which is Brazil’s main producer of HIV antiretrovirals. UNITAID discussed pursuing a joint project with the Brazilian government in order to have them participate in UNITAID tenders.
Chile has Latin America’s largest generics market and UNITAID also agreed to pursue joint opportunities with the country’s private generics industry.
Working with local universities
On August 30th, Executive Director Broun discussed innovative finance and UNITAID’s role with professors and students at a special session organized by the University of Chile’s School of Public Health, Faculty of Medicine. UNITAID will continue to work with the University on market dynamics issues for HIV/AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis.
UNITAID also agreed to pursue joint projects with the Oswaldo Cruz Foundation in Rio de Janeiro, which is considered one of the world’s top public health research and development institutions.