UNITAID is an innovative financing mechanism that raises new funds for global health and complements existing initiatives targeting HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis (TB), and malaria. Almost two-thirds of its funding (US$1.2 billion out of US$1.9 billion in the period 2007-2012) is mobilized through a mandatory tax, known as the "air ticket levy' —a contribution that passengers make when they purchase their airline ticket.
UNITAID was officially launched at the United Nations General Assembly meeting in September 2006 by the governments of France, Brazil, Chile, Norway, and the United Kingdom. Since its launch, 24 other countries and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation have become UNITAID members.
UNITAID's mission is to contribute to increasing access to drug treatments and diagnostics for HIV/AIDS, TB, and malaria, primarily in low-income countries (see UNITAID's strategic objectives).
UNITAID's strategic objectives
UNITAID's six strategic objectives are to:
- Increase access to simple, point-of-care diagnostics for HIV/AIDS, TB, and malaria
- Increase access to affordable, paediatric medicines to treat HIV/AIDS, TB, and malaria
- Increase access to emerging medicines and/or regimens, as well as new formulations, dosage forms, or strengths of existing medicines that improve treatment of HIV/AIDS and co-infections
- Increase access to artemisinin-based combination therapies (ACTs) and emerging medicines, that, in combination with appropriate diagnostic testing, improve malaria treatment
- Secure supply of second-line TB medicines, and increase access to emerging medicines and regimens that improve treatment of drug-sensitive and multi drug-resistant TB
- Increase access to products for the prevention of HIV, TB, and malaria
Source: UNITAID Strategy 2013-2016
UNITAID aims to achieve its mission by:
- Providing incentives to manufacturers to produce otherwise commercially unattractive products at lower prices. UNITAID provides funding to its partners to purchase existing medicines and diagnostics. This provides them with the "purchasing power" to negotiate reduced prices with manufacturers and to pool many low-volume orders to reach suppliers' minimum production volumes ("batch sizes"). Through long-term orders, UNITAID also encourages more producers to enter the market to increase competition.
- Accelerating the pace at which new drugs and diagnostics are developed through long-term purchase commitments to its partners. These help to encourage the development of new drugs better adapted to the needs of patients in developing countries, for example spurring the manufacture of fixed-dose antiretroviral (ARV) drug combination therapies, and of pediatric ARV formulations.
- Addressing severe market inefficiencies resulting in limited access to quality-ensured health commodities through improved forecasting and other measures (e.g. creation of a global stockpile for TB medicines). UNITAID supports the WHO Prequalification Programme, which aims to increase access to medicines that meet pre-specified efficacy, quality, and safety standards.
- Financing country projects: UNITAID also funds projects at country level to improve access to prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of HIV/AIDS, TB, and malaria. UNITAID's main focus is on Millennium Development Goal (MDG) 6, which aims to combat HIV/AIDS, malaria and other infectious diseases. It also contributes towards MDG 4 (reducing child mortality), MDG 5a (reducing maternal mortality), and MDG 8e (providing access to affordable, essential drugs in developing countries). UNITAID has financed HIV, TB, and malaria projects in 94 countries. According to UNITAID, it has achieved price reductions of up to 80% on leading paediatric ARVs, and helped to reduce the price of second-line treatment for HIV/AIDS by 50-75%. UNITAID is also the largest non-governmental provider of TB medicines for children, and a key supplier of malaria prevention and treatment tools.
UNITAID has also been a key supporter of the Medicines Patent Pool, which aims to improve access to low cost HIV medicines in developing countries. In a patent pool, pharmaceutical patent holders voluntarily license their drug to other drug manufacturers in exchange for a royalty payment. These other manufacturers can then produce cheap generic versions of the drug.
Learn more about UNITAID's impact, constitution, market impact model, and 2013-2016 Strategy.