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Last Updated: Friday, 13 January 2006, 10:26 GMT
Clinton announces Aids drugs deal
Former US President Bill Clinton announces the Aids drugs deal
Bill Clinton said the deal could save hundreds of thousands of lives
A foundation run by former US President Bill Clinton has negotiated a deal that will cut the cost of HIV tests and Aids treatment in developing countries.

Mr Clinton said hundreds of thousands of lives could be saved as a result of the agreement with several drugs firms, which he said was only a "first step".

Under the deal, the tests will be made available at half price and the cost of the drugs will be reduced by 30%.

More than 40m people are infected with HIV/Aids, according to the UN.

Chembio (US), Orgenics (Israel), Qualpro Diagnostics (India) and Shanghai Kehua (China) will offer tests for $0.49-0.65 each (50% cheaper than market price)
Cipla (India), Ranbaxy (India), Strides Arcolab (India) and Aspen Pharmacare (S Africa) will offer Efavirenz for $240 per patient p/a
Cipla will also offer Abacavir for $447 per patient p/a
Both drugs 30% cheaper than market prices

The agreement between the Clinton Foundation and a handful of small drugs firms should mean up to a million people receive cheaper treatment by the end of the year.

The medications involved in the deal are Efavirenz, a first-line drug offered in the earliest stage of treatment, and Abacavir, a more expensive second-line treatment used when patients become resistant to first-line drugs.

Mr Clinton said the deal was a "step in the right direction" but added that he would like to see more of the world's biggest drugs manufacturers sign up.

He said he expected to negotiate further price cuts later this year on additional second-line treatments.

Fifty countries in Africa, Asia, the Caribbean, Latin America and Eastern Europe will benefit from the programme.

Sub-Saharan Africa: 25.8m
Asia: 8.3m
High-income nations: 1.9m
Latin America: 1.8m
E Europe, C Asia: 1.6m
Australasia, Pacific: 74,000
N Africa, Mid East: 510,000
Caribbean: 300,000
Source: UNAids/WHO

The former president said he hoped making cheap, quick HIV tests more widely available would encourage many more people to be tested.

"It's a long time past when there should be any stigma attached to Aids and also long past time when we can just look away, knowing that 90% of the people who are infected don't know it," he told reporters in New York.

He gave the example of the African country of Lesotho, where every child under 12 is tested, as an example of how Aids awareness could be improved.

The Clinton Foundation, set up in 2002, aims to provide technical and financial help to poorer countries struggling to stop the spread of HIV/Aids.

Watch Bill Clinton being interviewed on Newsnight

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