“HIV treatment is not sustainable, you must involve civil society to increase access,” treatment activists in Latin America and the Caribbean tell ViiV Healthcare.

Treatment activists, representing 13 countries in the Latin America and Caribbean region (LACTA), met with ViiV Healthcare in Panama City (22-23 October 2018) to push the company on the price discrepancies for HIV treatment and a lack negotiation across the region, along with other barriers to access.

The LACTA Community Advisory Board (CAB) meets once a year. The overall goal of the 2018 meeting was to increase equal dialogue at the regional level among people living with HIV, TB, and/or Hepatitis C, treatment advocates, representatives of the pharmaceutical industry, and policymakers, in order to improve access to treatment, care, and support for patients. 

Specific aims included explaining the realities of the barriers to achieving universal access in the region and urging ViiV to increase the involvement of civil society and patients groups to ensure fairer prices and increased access.

During the discussion, ViiV said: “We want our price to reflect our objective of leaving no person living with HIV behind.”

Civil society replied, outlining that in practice licensing ‘deals’ made via the Medicines Patent Pool (MPP), which are not extended to many, higher-income countries in the region, are “punishing Latin America”. 

Treatment advocates were consistent in their message that the income status of countries does not paint a complete picture of the issues they are struggling with at country level, such as corruption, internal conflict, right-wing governments, low health budgets, refugee flows and extreme wealth inequality. 

The argument was made that civil society, more so than national governments, is best placed to know the needs of communities and people living with HIV and the limitations and constraints that are present on the ground. ViiV and the MPP both promised to do more outreach and coordination with civil society groups. 

Participants left the CAB cautiously optimistic about new entry points for collaboration with the MPP and ViiV to include consulting on negotiations of future licensing, the opportunity to propose pilot projects for access in the region, and generally increased cooperation to improve access to treatment for all in the LATCA region. 

Read the report in full, including the Q&As with ViiV Healthcare and the Medicines Patent Pool.