20 September 2006

Brazil, Chile, France, Norway, United Kingdom Launch New International Drug Purchase Facility to Improve Access to Treatment for HIV/AIDS, Malaria, TB

NEW YORK, 19 September (UN Headquarters) -- Heads of State and ministers from Brazil, Chile, France, Norway and the United Kingdom pledged tens of millions of dollars to a new initiative to improve access to treatment for HIV/AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis for the poorest people in developing countries.  They spoke alongside former United States President William Jefferson Clinton today at a Headquarters event to launch the International Drug Purchase Facility, UNITAID.

UNITAID will be funded primarily by a solidarity levy on airline tickets.  So far, eighteen countries have announced plans to support this initiative.  In a political declaration, the core group of Brazil, Chile, France, Norway and the United Kingdom said the new mechanism would provide regular, predictable and enhanced financing for treatment, in addition to official development assistance (ODA).

The Secretary-General said this was a shining example of an innovative source of funding that could help achieve the Millennium Development Goals, as the mechanism could provide a real and immediate tool to help scale up access to medicines for the treatment of HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, and malaria.

President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva of Brazil said that it was essential to increase the amount of resources dedicated to fighting the war on hunger, poverty, and disease.  This new Drug Purchase Facility was an unprecedented form of cooperation between rich and poor countries.  

President Jacques Chirac of France said his country's commitment to UNITAID was based on the principle of allocating a tiny part of the immense wealth from economic globalization to the millions who suffer from infectious diseases every year.  He hoped that UNITAID would be a model for dealing with other global problems, such as hunger, access to safe drinking water, and basic education for all, especially girls.  France had already raised €15 million through the international solidarity levy on airline tickets and would raise €200 million by next July.

Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg of Norway said the UNITAID initiative should help reduce child mortality by improving access to life-saving drugs. Noting his country's contributions as a leading aid donor, he also emphasized the need to find innovative financing sources, as present levels of aid were insufficient. Norway's contribution to UNITAID in its first year of participation, in 2007, would total more than US$20 million.

Alejandro Foxley, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Chile, noted that his country had participated in the initiative with the goal of preventing more people from facing poverty because of health crises, and also to help the world attain the Millennium Development Goals.

Gareth Thomas, Minister for Development of the United Kingdom, said the need for UNITAID was clear in a world where many people in poor countries could not get the medicine they needed.  UNITAID could be a powerful new tool for driving down the cost of medicine.  The United Kingdom had made a 20-year commitment to UNITAID, with an initial contribution of around €20 million in 2007 to rise to some €60 million by 2010.

Denis Sassou-Nguesso, the President of the Republic of Congo who spoke in his capacity as Chairman of the African Union, praised the idea of UNITAID and said that Africa was counting on these resources designed to supplement official development assistance (ODA).  He also noted that seven African countries would institute the air travel levy, confirming their commitment to take up their share of responsibility to combat the HIV/AIDS epidemic.

William Jefferson Clinton, former President of the United States, said the Clinton Foundation was honoured to be involved in this project and thanked France, in particular, for that country's role in spearheading the initiative.  He described how UNITAID would negotiate procurement terms for children's medicine and so-called "second-line drugs" -- which were often needed when patients developed resistant strains of disease and which tended to be more expensive.  He hoped to see producers go from a high profit margin/low volume strategy to a low profit margin/high volume/prompt payment strategy.  This approach would one day help to ensure access to drugs for all children, he said.

Ban Ki-moon, Minister of Foreign affairs and Trade of the Republic of Korea, said his country was pleased to be part of the pilot group launching UNITAID.  His Government had put forward a draft bill for the creation of an air ticket solidarity contribution, which would generate more than US$15 million annually to support international efforts to eradicate poverty and pandemics in Africa.

José Antonio Ocampo, Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs, then introduced representatives of three organizations that would benefit from UNITAID:  Christine Kafondo, of Burkina Faso, who had founded Espoir pour demain; Carol Thomas of the Spiritia Foundation of Indonesia; and, Maxime Lunga Msumbu of the Democratic Republic of Congo, head of the association Les amis de Damien.  The three representatives called on all Member States to participate in the UNITAID initiative.

At the conclusion of the meeting, a Memorandum of Understanding was signed by the World Health Organization with Ministers of the Core Group of countries launching UNITAID (Brazil, Chile, France, Norway and the United Kingdom).

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