TREAT Asia and Coalition PLUS, an international association of organizations fighting AIDS and hepatitis, have embarked on a new partnership to improve hepatitis C (HCV) diagnosis and treatment access in Asia through the Unitaid-funded “HIV/HCV drug affordability project.”
Participants at a training on understanding and addressing hepatitis B and C, November 28-29, 2017, Bangkok, Thailand
One of Unitaid’s first efforts involving advocacy to address hepatitis C-related issues, the project was developed to improve access to highly effective direct-acting antivirals (DAAs) in low- and middle-income countries. It includes activities aimed at reducing drug prices, overcoming market-related barriers to access such as delays in regulatory approval for marketing, and prioritizing treatment delivery to those most in need. Originally approved in May 2014, the drug affordability project includes partners in seven countries. TREAT Asia joined in October 2017.
A table discussion at the November 2017 trainingThe new partnership’s overall goal is to build local movements towards implementing national treatment programs that will deliver a cure to the millions of people living with hepatitis C in the Asia-Pacific. A key strategy has been to engage and partner with local civil society organizations and policy makers to advance access together. In Asia, four countries are involved:
“Our vision for this project is well in line with our values as an organization,” said Maria Donatelli of Coalition PLUS. “One part of what we strive for is to ensure that people from key populations are systematically involved in the decision-making process, “We fight for universal access to care, treatment, and prevention while simultaneously battling stigmatization and criminalization of people from populations at risk.”implementation, and evaluation of pertinent healthcare programs. We fight for universal access to care, treatment, and prevention while simultaneously battling stigmatization and criminalization of people from populations at risk. With all the issues around hepatitis C, this project is a natural fit for us.”
Many of the organizations taking part had already been working with TREAT Asia on HIV and hepatitis C treatment access through projects supported by Open Society Foundations (OSF). With the additional partnership with Coalition PLUS, there will be greater opportunities to expand the reach of this work to different stakeholders, including a broader group of community treatment advocates, local physicians, and the World Health Organization’s regional and country offices.
“Joining the drug affordability project was an opportunity to ensure a collective effort toward our common goals,” said Giten Khwairakpam, Project Manager for Community and Policy at TREAT Asia.
To date, activities have included:
Expanding access to up-to-date information on regulatory status and drug pricing: Information on the regulatory status of DAAs is being shared at a global, regional, and more focused national level along with pricing information. Many stakeholders, including civil society and national governments, have used this information for their own advocacy purposes.
Skills building for community advocates: The partnership is convening community treatment advocates and building their capacity to better understand hepatitis B and C, as well as develop advocacy rallying points on why HIV and hepatitis B and C co-infection have to be addressed.
Training physicians to promote public health efforts: Trainings engage the region’s physicians and build their knowledge base of public health policies and campaigns to expand access to hepatitis treatment. Active collaboration with the WHO regional and country offices along with their viral hepatitis collaborating centers in the region is making the trainings and follow-up more effective. The trainings include active promotion of the WHO guidelines and sharing of implementation monitoring and evaluation indicators.
“The Unitaid funding for our partnership with Coalition PLUS supports and recognizes the urgent need to bring affordable access to hepatitis C treatment to Asia,” said Dr. Annette Sohn, Director of TREAT Asia. “We are pleased to have this opportunity to strengthen our advocacy and training work in this area.”