Three decades ago, the global health community was confronted by an unknown virus that attacked the immune system and seemed impervious to medical treatment at that time. Today, we know that virus as human immunodeficiency virus (HIV). Researchers, doctors, and the scientific community have not only identified HIV and its resulting illness, acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS), but have developed treatments known as antiretroviral therapy (ART). For those individuals infected with HIV who have access to ART, the once-killer virus can now be considered a chronic disease that can be successfully managed over a lifetime.
As of 2011, around 34 million people worldwide are living with HIV. The World Health Organization (WHO) and UNAIDS estimate that while over 8 million of these people living in low- to middle-income countries do have access to the therapy, about 15 million are still in need of ART. And while new infections in children have been substantially reduced, eliminating mother-to-child HIV transmission will require that ARVs are provided to all women living with HIV that become pregnant.
Continuing efforts from its predecessor programs, SIAPS helps countries expand access to HIV diagnosis, care, and treatment by helping develop efficient procurement, quantification, distribution, and prescribing and dispensing practices for ARVs and HIV test kits and other HIV and AIDS-related essential medicines and supplies. SIAPS helps country HIV programs decentralize their services to support improved medicines and patient care access by identifying opportunities for increasing efficiencies, mobilizing resources, enhancing transparency, and sustaining systems. The program also supports implementation of innovative tools developed under predecessor programs, such as the Electronic Dispensing Tool (EDT) and Quantimed.
Nationally, SIAPS helps countries update policies and supports regulatory authorities to ensure that ARVs and diagnostics are properly registered and meet efficacy, quality, and safety standards. Additionally, the program works to make sure pharmacovigilance systems are in place to monitor and identify emerging safety concerns. SIAPS staff members collaborate with program managers to estimate cost benefits of introducing and developing plans to implement new technologies and ART regimens.
SIAPS assists countries in expanding pharmaceutical services through chronic disease management for long-term HIV care through such efforts as building the capacity of Drug and Therapeutics Committees. This enables patients to achieve desired health benefits and slow drug resistance development through reducing inappropriate prescribing, preventing and managing adverse drug reactions, and helping patients adhere to and stay on treatment.
Globally, SIAPS works with WHO AIDS Medicines and Diagnostic Services (AMDS), the Interagency Task Team on the Prevention and Treatment of HIV Infection in Pregnant Women, Mothers and Children (IATT), and other partners to support countries in scaling-up access to prevention, treatment, and care. SIAPS designs interventions to specifically help scale up ART programs with the underlying implementation strategy of strengthening the pharmaceutical management system for a wider range of medicines and supplies and supporting integration of supply and patient services where appropriate. SIAPS’s systems strengthening approach aims to increase country ownership and result in improved and sustainable health impact.