Aids Weekly Plus
UNITAID, the International Drug Purchasing Facility, has purchased more than 220 GeneXpert machines and 1.4 million test cartridges for the TBXpert project, an anti-TB effort coordinated by the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Stop TB Partnership. The GeneXpert machines and test cartridges, which would go to 21 TBXpert project countries in Africa, Eastern Europe, and Asia, would cut the time required to diagnose drug-resistant TB strains from weeks to two hours. Recipients included Bangladesh, Belarus, Cambodia, Congo, Ethiopia, India, Indonesia, Kenya, Kyrgyzstan, Malawi, Mozambique, Myanmar, Nepal, Pakistan, Philippines, Moldova, Swaziland, Uganda, United Republic of Tanzania, Uzbekistan, and Vietnam.
On-the-spot diagnosis would allow health workers to engage patients in treatment immediately. WHO has recommended GeneXpert TB testing for people with suspected multidrug-resistant TB (MDR TB) and HIV-infected people who also might have TB. Training required to operate the GeneXpert machine was minimal, and test results were highly accurate. Developing countries previously relied on century-old technology that required laboratory infrastructure and microscope use. MDR TB diagnosis depended on weeks of growing laboratory cultures.
In 2012, the US President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, US Agency for International Development, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, and UNITAID successfully negotiated a 40-percent global reduction in the cost of test cartridges with GeneXpert’s manufacturer, Cepheid. The reduction, which allowed 145 countries to purchase reduced-cost test cartridges, saved approximately $15 million globally and also allowed countries not supported by the TBXpert project to increase TB testing. Approximately two-thirds of UNITAID’s funding ($1.3 billion of $2 billion) originated from a tax on airline tickets.