Asian Nations Gather to Advance Treatment Access
October 2003—Several countries in Asia have begun to manufacture generic versions of some HIV/AIDS treatments or are scaling up to do so. Meanwhile pharmaceutical companies continue to reduce the prices of brand-name drugs. While these developments have given treatment advocates cause for optimism, many obstacles remain before HIV/AIDS drugs become widely available in the region.
To discuss these challenges and to advance strategies for expanding access to treatment, more than 80 health experts from 15 countries attended the Jogjakarta Roundtable Meeting in Jogjakarta, Indonesia, September 1-4. The meeting, titled “From International Collaboration to National Self-Reliance,” was convened primarily for members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), but was also attended by representatives from TREAT Asia, the World Health Organization (WHO), Family Health International, and Médecins Sans Frontières, as well as participants from India and China.
To distribute HIV/AIDS treatments safely and effectively, many countries in Asia and the Pacific need to educate health care work forces, often untrained in treating HIV/AIDS, and bolster health care infrastructure. Meeting participants agreed that education and training programs that teach the safe and effective administration of drugs must be a major component of treatment scale-up efforts. Case studies of treatment access programs in Africa, South America, and Cuba were presented and discussed.
Despite price reductions and the introduction of generics, fiscal constraints continue to pose a major barrier to treatment scale-up efforts. Intricate international patent rules laid out by the World Trade Organization, known as the Agreement on Trade Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS), have been viewed by many as a hindrance to providing treatment to people with HIV/AIDS. The meeting included a presentation on TRIPS by WHO representatives.
At the program’s opening, M. Jusuf Kalla, Coordinating Minister of People’s Welfare and Chairman of the National AIDS Commission of the Republic of Indonesia, announced that his country’s government would begin a small program subsidizing the cost of HIV treatments for people with HIV/AIDS. Kimia Farma, a state-owned generic pharmaceutical manufacturer, said it was waiting for final approval from the Indonesian government to begin distributing generic HIV treatments to pharmacies throughout the country. The company claims it can manufacture several of the drugs necessary for highly active antiretroviral therapy (HAART) and that it has the capacity to deliver them through pharmacies throughout Indonesia.