Johnson & Johnson puts up $85m challenge to reduce HIV in Sub-Saharan Africa
Pharmaceuticals company Johnson & Johnson has said it will award US$85 million to the most innovative thinkers tackling how best to minimise HIV among adolescent girls and young women in Sub-Saharan Africa. The funds have been put up in affiliation with DREAMS Partners’ Innovation Challenge, a programme supported by the US President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR). Winners are expected to be announced in mid-July 2016, with their ideas likely to be brought into effect in the early autumn of 2016. Johnson & Johnson’s chosen deadline for submissions to the challenge is March 28 2016. According to Paul Stoffels, M.D. Chief Scientific Officer and Worldwide Chairman at Johnson & Johnson, winning candidates will be funded to actively reduce the impact of the disease in 10 Sub-Saharan African countries, to a target of 40 percent by the end of 2017. Countries that could benefit include Kenya, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, South Africa, Swaziland, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia and Zimbabwe.

AIDS is still the lead cause of mortality among fertile women in low and middle-income countries, with recorded new cases reaching around 380,000 a year, or more than 7,000 new infections a week globally. In sub-Saharan Africa, girls and young women account for around 71 percent of all new HIV infections. “While we have made considerable progress in the global response to HIV/AIDS, adolescent girls and young women have been largely left behind,” said Ambassador Deborah L. Birx, US Global AIDS Coordinator and U.S. Special Representative for Global Health Diplomacy. “We urgently need innovative solutions that empower them to protect their health and pursue their dreams.” Johnson & Johnson acts as an anchor partner to DREAMS. Together the pair comprise a US$385 million partnership addressing risk of HIV to young women, focussing on structural causes such as poverty, gender inequality, sexual violence and lack of education. Other organisations associated with the DREAMS Partnership include the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Girl Effect, Gilead Sciences, and ViiV Healthcare. “New thinking and high-impact approaches are needed to address the many complexities that drive this urgent health crisis,” said Jaak Peeters, head of Johnson & Johnson’s Global Public Health organization. “By addressing the factors and complexities that impact these young women at a fundamental level, we hope to measurably improve health outcomes and create enduring change.”
By Jack Aldane
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Photo: Johnson & Johnson