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J&J announces new partnerships in fight against HIV/AIDS

Published on 01/12/15 at 03:00pm

Johnson &Johnson is entering four new public-private partnerships aimed at significantly reducing the burden of HIV incidence among young girls in Africa.

The collaborations will focus on adolescent girls, who make up 71% of new HIV infections among adolescents in sub-Saharan Africa.

Announced on World AIDS Day, J&J’s new initiatives - led by its Janssen pharmaceutical companies - include collaborations with the US President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), the Clinton Health Access Initiative (CHAI) and the International Partnership for Microbicides (IPM), all focused on efforts to stem the tide of HIV infection and empower women and girls in HIV prevention.

Other initiatives include: becoming a major partner supporting PEPFAR’s DREAMS initiative, a collaboration with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Girl Effect and others, to dramatically reduce HIV infections among adolescent girls and young women in 10 sub-Saharan African countries; CHAI and IPM, which focus on increasing access to simplified HIV treatments; and advancing innovative tools to help prevent sexual transmission of HIV in women and girls.

A fourth initiative, Connect for Life, is a new program designed to enable local health professionals in resource-limited settings to improve diagnosis and treatment of those living with HIV and tuberculosis.

Johnson & Johnson says it aims to reach people over the whole continuum of care, from prevention to cure, and build on its 25-year history in battling HIV/AIDS- which includes its prior research partnerships, its issue advocacy with leading stakeholders, and of course its medicines portfolio.   

The company is encouraged by recent studies of novel therapies researched and developed by Janssen, which showed that long-acting, injectable formulations for HIV are keeping the virus under control, and the potential of a new prime-boost vaccine program currently in clinical trials.

Also welcome are statistics showing that since peaking in 2005, AIDS-related deaths have decreased by nearly a third and that new HIV infections in children have fallen by more than half since 2001.

“As a physician and scientist who trained in Africa during the beginning of the HIV crisis, I am proud of the progress the scientific, global, and patient communities have made to turn HIV/AIDS into a disease that can be adequately managed, enabling people with HIV to live productive lives,” says Paul Stoffels, chief scientific officer, Johnson & Johnson and worldwide chairman of Janssen Pharmaceutical Companies, who is responsible for leading the company’s HIV initiatives. “We must now address the most critical disparities in prevention and global access to treatment, especially in resource-limited settings around the world.”

A particular focus of the new initiatives is reducing HIV incidence in adolescent girls; 15% of women living with HIV/AIDS globally are aged 15-24, with 80% living in sub-Saharan Africa. Every year, 380,000 adolescent girls and young women are infected with HIV, a statistic which J&J says calls for an urgent ‘shift in programming’.

“Our goal is to make HIV history,” adds Alex Gorsky, chairman and chief executive of Johnson & Johnson. “Today we join the global community in honouring those who have made a significant difference in fighting HIV/AIDS, and at the same time we’re also reminded that much more remains to be done in this fight. That’s especially important in the world’s most vulnerable communities, and the programs we’re partnering with have the resources to offer the direct assistance so needed to help improve people’s lives.”

Jaak Peeters, head of global public health at Johnson & Johnson says: “The future of these fragile communities depends on the health and well-being of young women and their babies. We’re aiming to stop the cycle of HIV transmission by working to ensure that every baby is born HIV-free, adolescents have the tools to stay HIV-free and manage their status, and that those living with HIV have access to simplified treatment and care. We hope this integrated, outcomes-based approach to tackling critical global health challenges at every stage of life will have long-term impact for whole communities, not just individuals, in the world’s most vulnerable populations.”

Johnson & Johnson’s says it will employ a multi-pronged commitment to HIV, based on four initiatives, which include:

Stemming the tide of HIV in adolescent girls

Janssen will support PEPFAR’s DREAMS initiative by committing up to $15 million over two years in combined funding and in-kind contributions. This will provide in-country consumer insights, expertise and financial resources in 10 sub-Saharan countries to support a suite of programs focused on empowering adolescent girls, ensuring improved access to treatment and prevention options, and creating supporting communities. Janssen joins other major partners, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and Girl Effect, in its support.

Increasing access to innovative fixed-dose 2nd-line therapy for the treatment and prevention of HIV/AIDS

Janssen Sciences Ireland is collaborating with CHAI to facilitate the development and delivery of a fixed-dose combination of darunavir and ritonavir (DRV/rt) for the treatment of HIV in resource-limited settings. This collaboration will help support generic manufacturers’ efforts to broaden access to these formulations. The collaboration supports the inclusion of DRV/rt as an element of second-line treatment in the World Health Organization’s recent update to its global HIV/AIDS treatment guidelines.

Empowering women and girls in HIV prevention

Building on a decade-long partnership, Janssen Sciences Ireland UC granted IPM an exclusive, royalty-free license to develop and commercialise in a number of developing countries its HIV medicine darunavir as a potential vaginal and rectal microbicide for HIV prevention in women.

Enhancing detection, treatment and prevention of HIV and TB for patients

In collaboration with the Infectious Diseases Institute, the Ugandan Ministry of Health, and Johnson & Johnson Corporate Citizenship Trust, Janssen has launched the Ugandan Academy for Health Innovation and Impact as a flagship of Connect for Life, a new program that deploys mobile and digital technologies, demonstration projects, and Academies of independent local experts to help patients manage their diseases, while also building capacity in local healthcare professionals to enhance detection, treatment and prevention of HIV and TB, and improve maternal and child health.

Joel Levy

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