Skip to main content

Home Uncategorised

Olly Alexander and Stephen Fry join calls for groundbreaking HIV treatment to be more available

A letter from HIV charities says an injectable treatment could "have a transformative effect on the global AIDS response".

By Emily Maskell

Words: Emily Maskell; pictures: BBC and Attitude 

Olly Alexander and Stephen Fry are joining calls for ground-breaking HIV medicine to be cheaper and accessible worldwide. 

In an open letter, published on Wednesday (20 July), addressed to the CEO of pharmaceutical company ViiV, Deborah Waterhouse, the National AIDS Trust, and UNAIDS are joined by many famous names to encourage a dramatic reduction in price and an open-access rollout of the long-acting HIV prevention technology they own.

The development and production of long-acting injectable Cabotegravir (CAB-LA) as an HIV prevention tool is the focus of the group’s letter. 

“New long-acting antiretroviral HIV medicines could have a transformative effect on the global AIDS response–significantly reducing new HIV infections, revolutionising HIV treatment, and saving many lives,” the letter opens.

It continues: “We write to ask you to urgently ensure equitable and affordable access to the new HIV medicine your company has developed so that it can be used globally to help close the inequalities driving the HIV pandemic.”

The letter notes there are “1.5 million new infections annually and a person still dies every minute from AIDS,” with the fact that HIV prevention drugs have disproportionately been accessible for those in wealthy counties while millions remain with limited or no access. 

“If CAB-LA is not widely available and affordable, it will deepen the inequalities that both fuel the AIDS pandemic, and that are exacerbated by it.”

“Access to life-saving science cannot and must not be dependent on the passport you hold or the money in your pocket.”

The letter notes that the 24th International AIDS Conference in Montreal, Canada is a historic opportunity for ViiV to “stand with world leaders, civil society and people living with and at risk of HIV” and “pledge actions that will save lives and accelerate efforts to end AIDS as a public health threat by 2030”.

The United Nations set the target to end Aids by 2030 and the letter highlights this deadline is fast approaching so there is “no time to waste in mobilising new health technologies to reach those whose needs have not yet been met by the global AIDS response and to give new choices to all at risk.”

The letter pinpoints four actions for ViiV to take: a lower price for CAB-LA as close as possible to that of other HIV prevention medicines, licensing across low and middle-income countries on a non-exclusive basis, sharing know-how, and technology, and commitment to making enough to meet demand.

There is also the note that there is a wealth of additional stakeholders who must also do their part; from governments reviewing this new medication and urgently updating their guidelines, to investments in generic production facilities, to supporting health systems and communities on deploy new HIV prevention options as soon as they are available.

Alongside Stephen Fry and Olly Alexander, other signatories include David Oyelowo, Adam Lambert, STOP AIDS Director Mike Podmore, former President of Malawi Dr Joyce Banda and many other noble laureates.

“It is within ViiV’s power to ensure that millions more people around the world are able to benefit from the incredible technical advances that have gone into this new medicine,” Deborah Gold, Chief Executive of National AIDS Trust, said.

Gold continued: “If countries know that it is available at an affordable price, they will be able to prioritise the purchase of it from their health budgets and to make it available to all who need it.

The Attitude July/August issue is out now.