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December 1, 2020
The world has made considerable progress against HIV/AIDS since the first World AIDS Day in 1998. Despite that progress, as we mark the occasion this year, we mourn the loss of the nearly 33 million people who have died from AIDS since the start of the epidemic and recommit ourselves to all of the 38 million people living with HIV today, 13 million of who still don’t have access to lifesaving treatment. COVID-19 has compounded the challenges of fighting AIDS, straining healthcare networks and putting people with HIV at even greater risk.
Through our predecessor companies, Viatris has been on the frontlines of the global fight against HIV/AIDS for more than a decade. We are proud of that heritage, but we know there is much more to do. Whether it’s helping to treat infants through pediatric treatment or working to prevent new infections, Viatris will continue to lead and partner to ensure access to the tools that combat this disease. Our recent announcement highlighting FDA tentative approval of a pediatric HIV treatment under the U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) to reach children living with HIV/AIDS in low- and middle-income countries is just one way we’re executing on our mission today.
The Fight Against HIV/AIDS
Viatris is the world's largest supplier by volume of antiretrovirals (ARVs), the primary treatment for HIV/AIDS, in low- and lower-middle-income countries. Our products treat five times more people living with HIV/AIDS per day than all of the branded originators combined – that amounts to about 40% of people living with HIV/AIDS on treatment and approximately 60% of the world's HIV-positive children on treatment.
Reflecting on where we’ve been and where we need to go on this World AIDS Day, we are reaffirming a commitment grounded in three pillars:
For a decade, Viatris has helped expand access by making new HIV/AIDS medicines available – representing half of the FDA tentative approvals for new products under PEPFAR – and by making them affordable. In low- and middle-income countries, adult treatment is available for $6 per month, and on this World AIDS Day we are helping to lower the cost of pediatric treatment by 75%. In addition, we continue to find innovative ways to increase access through the delivery of medicine. For example, we now provide multi-month ARV packs that reduce the need for patients to make inconvenient and sometimes costly journeys to refill prescriptions in less developed parts of the world.
Viatris will continue to seek innovative treatment solutions. In 2017, we were the first to market a World Health Organization (WHO) first-line HIV treatment regimen for adults new to ART treatment. Last year, the WHO gave prequalification approval to the Viatris HIV Self-Test, developed in collaboration with medical device manufacturer, Atomo Diagnostics. We also are addressing the unique challenge of treating some of the world's most vulnerable people living with HIV, children, by supplying ARVs in formulations specifically designed for these patients. For example, we supply HIV medicines which dissolve in liquid and are not only palatable for children, but also are light and easy to transport.
By partnering with others, Viatris is expanding the reach of its work to build healthier, more sustainable communities. Eliminating HIV/AIDS starts with prevention. We are collaborating with organizations, including the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, to develop a product that combines HIV prevention and contraception. That work combines our expertise in product development with the ability of our partners to ensure use of the product.
Working Today for a Better Tomorrow
Our work doesn’t stop here.
We not only manufacture medicines, but also work with a variety of organizations to support free community testing and awareness campaigns. In the UK, Viatris supports the National Health Service (NHS) in the world’s largest PrEP implementation trial targeting people at high risk of HIV infection.
We are looking beyond ARVs to other conditions affecting people living with HIV, including developing and supplying the medicines needed to treat advanced HIV/AIDS disease, such as flucytosine. And we are extending our work to multidrug resistant (MDR) tuberculosis (TB), as it is the largest killer of people living with HIV.
Additionally, because the COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted health systems and continuity of treatment for other diseases, particularly in low- and middle-income countries, we have adapted in 2020 to help ensure no shortfall in our supply of our HIV/AIDS medicines through programs supported by the Global Fight to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria and PEPFAR. Viatris employees around the world – including and especially in our manufacturing facilities – have been frontline heroes this year to keep up the supply of critical medicines.
"World AIDS Day is a time to assess progress made, mourn lives lost and rededicate ourselves to overcoming the challenges we face in defeating HIV/AIDS in this rapidly-changing healthcare landscape," said Anil Soni, head of global infectious disease. “Viatris has shown what commitment, innovation and science can accomplish against HIV/AIDS. Everyone, no matter where they live, should have access to HIV treatment. That is the future we envision."
Because at Viatris, we see healthcare not as it is, but as it should be.