ICAP at Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health has launched a new website for OPTIMIZE, a global partnership that accelerates access to simpler, safer, and more affordable HIV treatment. The website offers information and resources to support national-level policy makers and program managers in planning their HIV programs’ transition to optimized antiretrovirals (ARVs). These resources include an overview of the clinical and financial benefits of optimization, example needs assessments evaluating country readiness for introduction of optimal new ARVs, case studies, and an implementation guide with a menu of services available to support the transition process.
[Photo: Dr. Elaine J. Abrams]
OPTIMIZE is currently active in four countries in sub-Saharan Africa, with ICAP leading the work in Kenya, Mozambique, and Zimbabwe to accelerate the introduction of optimal ARVs using proven approaches to improve market access and strengthen health systems. The current work in South Africa is being led by Wits Reproductive Health and HIV Institute.
“OPTIMIZE will help countries overcome the very real challenges of budget and infrastructure limitations to achieve the UNAIDS 90-90-90 targets and implement the World Health Organization (WHO) Treat All recommendation,” said Dr. Elaine J. Abrams, ICAP’s senior research director, and professor of epidemiology at the Mailman School. “Optimized ARVs are easier for patients to manage and more cost-effective for public health systems, meaning greater epidemic control and better outcomes for people in low- and middle-income countries (LMIC) living with HIV.”
Optimized ARV products are effective, safe, well-tolerated, and easy to use for LMIC priority populations. Additionally, they have features such as affordability, heat-stability, and availability in fixed-dose combinations that make them well-adapted to resource- and infrastructure-constrained environments. Examples of optimized ARV products include dolutegravir (DTG), tenofovir alafenamide fumarate (TAF), and co-formulated darunavir/ritonavir (DRV/r).
The project is supported by the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), through the U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), and led by Wits RHI and founding members including ICAP at Columbia University‚ Mylan Laboratories‚ the University of Liverpool, and the Unitaid-funded Medicines Patent Pool. As an expanding partnership aimed at harnessing multiple stakeholders’ collective efforts, OPTIMIZE also includes the University of Cape Town and contributions from private sector partners.
USAID is a key implementing agency of PEPFAR and is responsible for over half of all PEPFAR programs with activities focused in 35 priority countries and regions, mainly in sub- Saharan Africa and Asia.