Wits RHI Receives Grant to Speed up Access to Critical HIV Drugs

7 December 2016



Johannesburg – 07 December 2016

Wits RHI Receives Grant to Speed up Access to Critical HIV Drugs

The Wits Reproductive Health and HIV Institute (Wits RHI) today announced a new partnership with UNITAID. The partnership will support efforts to optimise antiretroviral treatment (ART) by investing in research and operations to expand access to new, more effective and affordable antiretrovirals that have fewer side effects and are better tolerated by people living with HIV.

The three and a half year partnership will support a major clinical trial being implemented by Wits RHI called ADVANCE. The ADVANCE study, co-funded by USAID, is a treatment optimisation clinical trial that will evaluate a new first-line regimen with the potential to transform healthcare for people living with HIV. If successful, when compared with the current WHO recommended ART regimen, the new regimen will:

Be better tolerated;

  • Have a higher resistance barrier;
    Be more affordable (prices are expected to decrease by 20% initially, and potentially by up to 50% in thelong run);
  • Be one third the size of current tablets , allowing for smaller packaging and lower cost
    Replace current first-line HIV treatment so as to meet the increased number of people living with HIV to be
  • The ADVANCE study is designed to work closely with a large community, clinician and regulatory engagement programme that will prepare South Africa and the region for this regimen. The
  • UNITAID grant will also support several pharmacokinetic studies to provide the evidence to use these drugs for TB co-infected patients.

This comprehensive programme, which will engage civil society and prime the regulatory environment for future fixed dose combinations , will be led by Wits RHI in collaboration with the Treatment Action Campaign (TAC) and the Southern African HIV Clinicians Society (SAHCS This consortium, has extensive experience in community mobilization and advocacy to facilitate patient and clinician demand and uptake, and facilitate expedited regulatory interventions. In addition to the trial, the project will assist in building treatment literacy among community and activist organizations, as well as healthcare workers and policy makers, with linked training materials that can be used across sub-Saharan Africa and internationally.

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