Behind the Revolution of Diagnosis That Led to the HIV Miracle Baby…and More
Wednesday, May 29, 2013
“It’s a revolution in diagnosis which is leading to a revolution in treatment,” says Philippe Douste-Blazy of UNITAID. UNITAID means helping together, roughly translated from the French and it’s a visionary approach to solving the global crisis in health where depending upon where you live and your circumstances, you may receive excellent healthcare, some healthcare or none at all. Douste-Blazy is the former French Foreign Affairs Minister – equivalent to our Secretary of State – and is also a cardiologist by trade. He’s been successfully able to combine these two skills – medicine and diplomacy – in service of creating miracles around the world for men, women and children.
UNITAID is a small but scrappy group based within the World Health Organization that is applying 21st century solutions to age-old problems using a 1-2 punch of innovative financing and futuristic technology. And they’ve had more than one knockout against their foes both tiny (e.g. viruses and bacteria) and gigantic (e.g. corruption, bureaucracy, poverty).
It’s thanks to UNITAID’s work that pediatric HIV drugs even exist. Douste-Blazy’s team used micro-financing from small fees (about 1 euro on economy flights) on air plane tickets to persuade drug manufacturers to create drugs for an underserved yet desperate market. The people who need pediatric HIV/AIDS drugs tend to be mostly poor and African. Within only a few years, UNITAID’s work in partnership with local organizations, governments and NGOs such as the Clinton Health Access Initiative, UNICEF, Doctors Without Borders and the ONE Campaign has created the tantalizing prospect globally of a generation free of children born with HIV. For those children on AIDS treatment, UNITAID covers almost 80% of them.