Merck funds ARVS, Moeti applauds!

Managing director of African Comprehensive HIV/AIDS Partnerships (ACHAP), Dr Themba Moeti, has commended drug maker Merck & Co. Inc on its second phase of funding and donations of Anti Retroviral (ARV) towards addressing the needs of people living with HIV/AIDS in the country.

Moeti registered the compliment last week following an announcement that drug maker, Merck & Co. Inc, and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation will commit an additional $60 million to ACHAP. With Tuesday's pledge, the Merck Foundation and the Gates Foundation's total cash contributions now amount to $166.5 million.

"Our partners' contributions, through funding, antiretroviral drugs medicine donations and medical expertise, have been absolutely essential to our ability to address the needs of Batswana living with HIV and AIDS," said Moeti.He added that they look forward to strengthening the partnership as it enters the second phase.

He further said it is important to enhance the successes of their first decade while responding to the challenges that remain, whilst also retaining the flexibility to address emerging issues. Merck, which has been a partner with the government of Botswana for nearly a decade now, said it will continue to donate for HIV medicines.  Building on the successes created by its initial investment of $56.5 million nine years ago, the drug producing company also committed an additional $30 million over the next five years.

The new funding will continue the program's original efforts in treatment and care but it will also support the second phase initiatives to meet the current treatment needs of the 137,000 Batswana living with HIV and new patients enrolled in the second phase.  The second phase initiatives include: the prevention of HIV, the critical need to treat people living with HIV for tuberculosis (TB) and the sustainability of the program to allow Botswana to successfully address HIV/AIDS within its own borders.

"For nearly 10 years, Merck has been a partner in helping the government of Botswana save the lives of thousands of people living with HIV and AIDS and we are confident our new funding will continue to contribute to the well-being of the country," said Richard T. Clark, chairman and chief executive of Merck.

Clark went on to say the collaboration is 'a great success story' on many levels, and it has become a model for many countries both on and off the African continent". From 2001 to 2009, Merck and the foundation contributed $106.5 million to the partnership. Additionally, Merck donates its ARV medicines CRIXIVAN(R) (indinavir sulfate), STOCRIN(R) (efavirenz), to Botswana's national treatment program and will continue to do so for the duration of the partnership's second phase through 2014.

Founded in 2000, ACHAP is a public private partnership between the government of Botswana, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and The Merck Company Foundation. Its mission is to support the national comprehensive HIV/AIDS strategy to prevent new infections and reduce HIV/AIDS morbidity and mortality.

These new commitments come as the World Health Organisation's newly revised guidelines now recommend starting HIV treatment earlier, effectively doubling the number of people worldwide in need of treatment and not receiving it to 10 million.

At the same time, global funding is on the decline. In addition to the funding necessary to meet WHO's new guidelines, the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, TB and Malaria, which pays for one-fourth of the ARV treatment needs in developing countries, faces a deficit of at least $20 billion over the next three years in meeting the current treatment need. (Additional info: Merck News)

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