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[afro-nets] Clinton Foundation Cuts HIV Test Costs For Africa, Caribbean

Clinton Foundation Cuts HIV Test Costs For Africa, Caribbean
Wednesday, January 14, 2004

Former U.S. President Bill Clinton's foundation is expected to
announce today an agreement with five major medical companies to
lower the price of two diagnostic tests for HIV/AIDS in parts of
Africa and the Caribbean, the Wall Street Journal reports today.

The tests are not used to diagnose a person as HIV-positive, but
they help guide treatment of patients already known to be in-
fected. One test known as CD4 measures to what extent the dis-
ease has weakened the immune system, while the viral-load test
gauges how active HIV is in the body.

Deals with Beckman Coulter, Inc. and Becton, Dickinson & Co.
could cut CD4 prices to about $3-$5 per test from as much as
$15. Roche Diagnostics, Bayer HealthCare and bioMerieux may re-
duce prices to less than $20 per test at high volumes, about 20
percent lower than Roche's previous developing-world discount

A representative from the William J. Clinton Presidential Foun-
dation emphasized the deal is designed to ensure a sustainable
program, and that companies will make some profit.

"This is not a philanthropic effort," said Lynn Margherio, ex-
ecutive vice president of the foundation's AIDS initiative.
"This is a humanitarian effort, in that we are providing the
most affordable prices, but companies need to be able to offer
this on a multi-year basis."

Some activists say the tests are too complicated to administer
in impoverished nations, however, and argue that a long-term
solution will require new tests that are low-tech and simple to
use. Less expensive CD4 tests are already available, but the
foundation did not consider the cheap tests because they are not
yet licensed.

While the Clinton Foundation supports developing cheaper tech-
nology for HIV testing, Ira Magaziner, head of the AIDS initia-
tive, said, "Bottom line: this is what is available today."

The World Health Organization praised the agreement. "Most peo-
ple have been so focused on drug prices that they haven't really
been looking at the price of diagnostics, so this is very wel-
come," said Jim Kim, adviser to WHO Director General Lee Jong-

This initiative follows another deal struck last fall by the
foundation and several generic-drugs manufacturers that lowered
already-reduced AIDS treatment costs.

Countries the Clinton Foundation is currently assisting - in-
cluding South Africa, Tanzania, Mozambique, Rwanda, Haiti, the
Dominican Republic and several other Caribbean nations - may
benefit immediately from the diagnostics test pact. The founda-
tion hopes to extend the deal to additional countries as soon as
possible, said Magaziner (Mark Schoofs, Wall Street Journal,
Jan. 14).

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