Cost of HIV treatment

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The cost of HIV treatment is a complicated issue because of the high cost of developing HIV treatments versus an urgent lifesaving need across cultural boundaries to access HIV treatments. One way to state the issue would be to say that the treatments, typically drug regimens, are the products of extremely costly and resource intensive clinical research. Once the research is complete, the actual cost of the drugs is much lower. Many people living with HIV need the drugs to save their lives, but are unable to afford them at the market cost. If the drug developers do not recover market cost, then they lose their research investment and certainly have no motivation to invest further in research. However, most people who need HIV treatment are unable to contribute monetarily in any significant way to the cost of their drugs, so either they need to get the drugs at a nominal cost or no cost or they will suffer death.

Governments and private institutions have created various financial schemes to subsidize the cost of HIV treatment to make it as accessible as possible to the people who need it while encouraging financial motives to grow the HIV research sector. When those schemes have not been effective people have protested or reacted in different ways.

Scheme for drug pricing[edit]

Drug companies marketed their drugs at different prices depending on the target consumers.[1] In the United States many people accessed healthcare through private insurers which they paid through their employers, and in this system, the market could pay extremely high drug prices.[1] In wealthy countries with nationalized healthcare, like Canada, Western Europe, and Japan, the drug companies charged mid-range prices according to the market norms.[1] In developing countries the prices were lowest.[1]

ACT UP protests AZT cost[edit]

ACT UP is a New York City-based advocacy group for people with HIV. On September 14, 1989, members of ACT UP protested at the New York Stock Exchange over the Burroughs Wellcome's setting a price of $10,000 USD per year for AZT, which was the only effective treatment for HIV discovered. This price was unaffordable to almost all HIV positive persons. Several days later in response to the protest the company lowered the price of AZT to $6,400 per patient per year, which was still a price which almost no one could afford.[citation needed]

Brazil violates patents[edit]

Brazilian Health Minister Jose Serra announced in 2001 that his government could find no way to pay for the cost of patented HIV drugs, and would produce Hoffmann-La Roche's Nelfinavir in violation of international patent laws in order to save the lives of their citizens.[2]

In 2007 the Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva announced plans to manufacture Merck & Co.'s patented drug efavirenz, also because of an urgent need and an inability to pay for the drug.[3]


  1. ^ a b c d Engel, Jonathan (2006). The epidemic : [a global history of AIDS]. New York: Smithsonian Books/Collins. p. 308. ISBN 978-0-06-114488-2. 
  2. ^ "Brazil to break Aids patent". BBC News. London: BBC. 23 August 2001. Retrieved 10 March 2012. 
  3. ^ "Brazil to break AIDS drug patent". 4 May 2007. Retrieved 10 March 2012.