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U.S. Approves New AIDS Treatment for Poor Countries

I’m Steve Ember with the VOA Special English Development Report.

The United States Food and Drug Administration has approved a new AIDS treatment for poor countries. The medicine combines three drugs commonly used to suppress H.I.V., the virus that causes AIDS. The new product contains the active ingredients in the drugs sold under the trade names Epivir, Retrovir and Viramune.

The drugs are lamivudine, zidovudine, and nevirapine.

The drug company Aurobindo Pharma in Hyderabad, India, will manufacture the approved combination. The tablets will be offered to fifteen countries under the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief.

President Bush announced that program during his State of the Union speech in two thousand three. The five-year, fifteen thousand million dollar plan seeks to provide AIDS drugs to developing countries.

This is the first time the Food and Drug Administration has approved a product like this under the plan. The decision is a tentative approval. That means the product meets all quality and safety requirements for marketing in the United States.

Full approval would mean that the product could be sold in the United States. But that is not possible because of patent protections and marketing agreements.

The new fixed-dose combination tablet will simplify treatment of H.I.V. Patients will take a single tablet two times a day, instead of having to take several medicines. There are not only cost savings, but also less of a threat of drug resistance caused by missed treatments.

Experts say around forty million people are living with H.I.V. More than sixty percent are in southern Africa. That area has only eleven percent of the world's population.

The United Nations says H.I.V. rates worldwide are believed to have reached their highest levels in the late nineteen nineties. They appear to have settled after that, although rates continue to increase in several countries. For example, the two thousand six U.N. AIDS report said the epidemics in eastern Europe and central Asia continue to expand.

AIDS has resulted in twenty-five million deaths in the last twenty-five years. The World Bank declared it a development crisis in two thousand. And more than thirteen million children under the age of fifteen have lost one or both parents because of it. Experts believe this number will double by two thousand ten.

This VOA Special English Development Report was written by Jill Moss. For transcripts of our reports, go to I’m Steve Ember.