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Former President Clinton Strikes AIDS Drug Pricing Deal

Former President Bill Clinton has announced that his AIDS foundation has struck agreements with nine companies to lower the price of diagnostic kits and two anti-AIDS drugs. The deals are expected to benefit those who are infected with HIV/AIDS in 50 countries.

Former President Clinton says four international companies in Israel, China, India and the United States have agreed to offer rapid HIV diagnostic tests for 49-65 cents per test, a 50 percent discount over the current price.

Five companies will make anti-viral drugs available at a deep discount in 50 countries that are part of the foundation's consortium.

The drugs, Efavirenz and Abacavir, are what is known as second-line treatment. They are 10 times more expensive than first line drugs, and are used when cheaper first-line antiretrovirals can't be used in AIDS patients, either due to resistance or side effects.

Under the agreement, the two drugs in combination would cost around $700 dollars per year, a 30-50 percent discount.

An estimated 40 million people are infected with the deadly AIDS virus globally. Mr. Clinton said making testing and treatment more accessible is key to stopping the spread of of HIV.

"Too many people die simply because they can't afford or don't have access to the drugs," he said. "Too many are being infected simply because most of the people who have the virus today have not been tested. This agreement can save hundreds of thousands of lives."

Former President Clinton said AIDS continues to be a scourge because 90 percent of those who are infected don't know it.

"If people know they're [HIV] positive and they know they can get the medicines and they know they can live, the chance of them acting responsibly and reducing the number of new infections is enormously increased," he said.

In order to reach and treat those who do not know they are infected, the Clinton Foundation says developing countries will need to undertake aggressive testing programs, running at least 200 million HIV rapid tests in the next four years.