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ADVANCING GLOBAL HEALTH IN THE AGE OF COVID-19:

UNITAID ANNUAL REPORT 2019-2020

A SIMPLER APPROACH
TO HEALTHCARE

Over the past 15 years Unitaid has led the way in identifying promising health innovations, showing they can work in low-resource settings, and laying the foundations for partners to make them available at scale.

The diseases that Unitaid and its partners are seeking to end – HIV, tuberculosis, malaria, cervical cancer and hepatitis C - are both preventable and treatable but also complex and intractable. A growing challenge is posed by antimicrobial resistance which is undermining the ability to treat infectious diseases.

The COVID-19 pandemic that has shaken the world over the past seven months has added a new layer of complexity to the global health landscape, infecting millions of people and setting off a frenzied search for effective vaccines, reliable treatments and diagnostics.

Unitaid wants to see some of the approaches it has successfully promoted to HIV and tuberculosis applied to COVID-19, such as preventive therapy and testing and treating in the early stages of the disease.

Unitaid’s interventions are driven by a quest to achieve greater simplicity in screening, testing, treating and case management so that health systems can be better equipped to provide quality care to more people at less cost.

All the projects highlighted in this annual report aim to simplify healthcare, whether by using a portable device to quickly determine if someone has advanced HIV disease; or a child-friendly four-in-one combination of antiretroviral drugs to treat children with HIV; or a drug that only requires a single dose to cure people with plasmodium vivax malaria.

The report traces Unitaid’s progress from July 2019 to July 2020 and shows how Unitaid and its partners are responding to the COVID-19 pandemic and working together to ensure programs sustaining the fight against the three diseases continue with as little disruption as possible.

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PUTTING BETTER HEALTH PRODUCTS IN REACH OF ALL

by proving the viability of health innovations and enabling partner organizations to scale then up in low-income countries.

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MAKING NEW DRUGS THAT ARE BETTER-TASTING AND ACCURATELY DOSED FOR CHILDREN

who are at high risk of infection and death from HIV, tuberculosis and malaria.

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Supporting resilience in health systems

with state-of-the-art tools, such as smart diagnostics, and shorter, more effective treatment regimens that deliver better outcomes and strengthen healthcare.

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Empowering people

with innovative tests and medicines that make testing and treatment more convenient, cut through stigma and encourage people to get the help they need.

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Simplifying the response to complex diseases

with innovations such as diagnostics that screen for different conditions and longer-acting drugs that fight disease, simplify care and take pressure off health systems.

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Unitaid has also moved quickly to reshape its programs to contribute to the global response to COVID-19.

Many of Unitaid’s latest interventions have the potential to strip away complexity and make the task of health workers comparatively easier, while improving quality of life for beneficiaries of healthcare. Long-acting formulations, for example, could replace daily regimens of antiretroviral pills. HIV could instead be treated with injections and patches that are effective for weeks or even months on end, improving adherence and combatting increased resistance to drugs.

A new portable device that uses a heated probe to treat precancerous lesions on the cervix has the potential to transform outcomes for women in low- and middle-income countries, who are six times more likely to develop cervical cancer than women in high-income countries. The device can be used in remote settings by a nurse to remove abnormal tissue which, if untreated, can lead to invasive cancer.

These approaches hold out the promise of being affordable and can be speedily administered to large numbers of people in communities at point-of-care. Greater simplification can provide the bedrock for more resilient health systems that make possible the attainment of universal coverage.

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Marisol Touraine
Chair of the executive board

“We are helping to overcome the worst pandemic in a century.”

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PHILIPPE DUNETON
EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR

“COVID-19 threatens progress made against the three diseases.”

A Key Role in
Efforts
to Defeat COVID-19

Unitaid is working on three fronts in response to COVID-19: engaging globally to develop new tools rapidly and ensure everyone has access to them to defeat the virus; working with grant implementers to add firepower to the COVID-19 response, to mitigate the impact on our grants; finally, adapting the way we work as an organization.

The COVID-19 pandemic threatens to overwhelm weak health systems, causing people to avoid hospitals and clinics, and forcing public health interventions to shut down with fearsome knock-on effects for other diseases.

RESULTS

Today, Unitaid manages a portfolio of 50 grants with a value of around US$ 1.3 billion delivering innovation in HIV, TB and malaria, as well as hepatitis C, cervical cancer and childhood fever management.

Four grants are showcased here.

A GAME-CHANGING TEST TO MANAGE ADVANCED HIV DISEASE

LEADING A BREAKTHROUGH IN HIV SELF-TESTING

NEW INSECTICIDES PROVE EFFECTIVENESS IN CONTROLLING MALARIA

A WATERSHED DEAL FOR TB PREVENTION DRUG

LAUNCHING
GROUND-BREAKING
INVESTMENTS

Despite the COVID-19 pandemic, Unitaid has continued to promote innovation in global health, with more than US$ 250 million invested in new projects since July 2019.

Twelve new grants were launched, in addition to major changes to 9 existing grants as part of Unitaid’s response to COVID-19. New calls for proposals included areas such as oxygen therapy, Chagas disease and preventative malaria treatment for children.

Three new investment areas are showcased here.

Long-acting TECHNOLOGIES
Helping patients succeed with longer acting medicines in place of pills
CERVICAL CANCER
Saving women’s lives with screening and treatment for cervical cancer
UNITAID EXPLORE
Unitaid initiative for funding small projects debuts with oxygen therapy
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ACCELERATING SCALE-UP

Through its grants, Unitaid is supporting the introduction and scale-up of lifesaving innovations that are making a big difference in bending the curve on the world’s most deadly diseases. The magnitude of Unitaid’s impact was demonstrated in a joint analysis undertaken by Unitaid and the Global Fund leading up to the Global Fund’s October 2019 replenishment conference. The analysis estimated that without innovations supported by both organisations, it would take three years longer to reach our targets for reducing the deaths from HIV, tuberculosis and malaria. Furthermore, the analysis demonstrated the sheer scale of Unitaid’s impact. Innovations supported by Unitaid and the Global Fund are projected to reach more than 100 million people every year from 2021 to 2023.

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Innovations supported by Unitaid are accelerating progress in reducing deaths from the 3 diseases

Without the innovation progress in reducing deaths could take 3 years longer, projections suggest

Health innovations will play a critical part in helping us get back on track to meet our 2030 SDG targets

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Highlights from 2019-2020

JULY
2019

Unitaid and Rwanda’s Ministry of Health sign agreement to collaborate on better and more affordable health solutions for the people of Rwanda and beyond.

ALIMA, PATH and Unitaid announce US$ 43 million initiative to provide frontline health workers in Asia and Africa with affordable, easy-to-use diagnostic devices to help identify critically ill children and refer them for treatment without delay.

SEPTEMBER
2019

Unitaid is one of 12 multilateral organizations to launch Global Action Plan (GAP) for Healthy Lives and Well-being for All, an initiative to strengthen collaboration to help countries move faster toward universal health coverage.

OCTOBER
2019

Landmark deal by Unitaid, the Global Fund and pharmaceutical group Sanofi significantly lowers price of rifapentine, a drug used to prevent tuberculosis). The agreement boosts efforts to treat latent by broadening access to better preventive therapy.

France’s President Emmanuel Macron announces the renewal of France’s support for Unitaid for a further three years. France is one of the founders of Unitaid and its biggest donor.

NOVEMBER
2019

South Africa, which accounts for one-fifth of all people living with HIV worldwide, launches a state-of-the-art treatment that was introduced with the support of Unitaid. The new three-in-one regimen, known as TLD, has fewer side-effects and is easier to take than other formulations.

DECEMBER
2019

Unitaid and Expertise France sign financing agreement to implement the Scale Up Cervical Cancer Elimination with Secondary prevention Strategy (SUCCESS) project. The aim is to strengthen screening and secondary prevention to prevent development of cervical cancer in women infected with human papilloma virus (HPV) who have precancerous lesions.

Indian pharmaceutical company Cipla announces commitment to price a ’four-in-one‘ treatment for young children with HIV at less than one U.S. dollar a day. The treatment is under review by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for use in children weighing between 3 and 25 kg.

JANUARY
2020

Unitaid unveils US$ 39 million investment in two projects to speed up development of long-acting versions of medicines for low- and middle-income countries. Long-acting technologies offer a simple way of administering medicines that frees patients from daily pills, makes it easier for them to start and stay on treatment, and reduces the burden on health systems.

FEBRUARY
2020

Unitaid launches UnitaidExplore initiative, a new funding mechanism targeting small-scale projects with potential to bring about large change. The first call under the initiative was for ideas to create a transformative improvement in access to oxygen therapy, a technique that can make a life-or-death difference when treating people with moderate to severe disease.

MARCH
2020

Unitaid Board approves US$ 30 million for work against COVID-19, authorizing Unitaid to contribute its expertise in innovative treatment, diagnostics and respiratory triage tools to a global pandemic response.

APRIL
2020

The Board of the Unitaid-funded Medicines Patent Pool (MPP) temporarily broadens MPP’s mandate to include any health technology that can contribute to the global response to COVID-19. The move allows MPP to offer its licensing expertise to the World Health Organization (WHO) and to assist global efforts to contain the pandemic in any way it can.

Unitaid releases report on how to improve diagnosis and treatment of Chagas disease. The report describes diagnostics and treatments that are in use now and identifies potential improvements.

Unitaid named as a Co-convener of the Therapeutics Partnership under the COVID-19 tools accelerator partnership (ACT-A), alongside the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the Wellcome Trust.

JUNE
2020

Unitaid’s Executive Board approves new funding of up to US$ 35 million to support Unitaid’s role in the ACT-A partnership for developing and making available vaccines, therapeutics and diagnostics for COVID-19. The funding is in addition to US$ 30 million agreed in March 2020 as part of the COVID-19 response.

JULY
2020

Unitaid and Wellcome join forces with partners in the Access to COVID-19 Tools Accelerator (ACT-A) to expand access to dexamethasone for low- and middle-income countries as part of efforts to ensure equitable access to therapeutics in the COVID-19 response. Dexamethasone is a low-cost corticosteroid use to provide relief for inflammation.

The Foundation for Innovative New Diagnostics (FIND) and Unitaid launch call for expressions of interest to accelerate availability and manufacturing scale-up of rapid diagnostic tests for COVID-19. Rapid and affordable tests are key tools for patient management and contact tracing in low-and middle-income counties.

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