Former President Bill Clinton has announced a new deal with drug companies that will significantly lower the cost of AIDS drugs in 66 developing countries. From New York City, Victoria Cavaliere reports for VOA that the deal includes a once-daily AIDS medicine now available for less than $1 per day.

Speaking at his foundation headquarters in Harlem, New York, Mr. Clinton said seven million people in the developing world are in need of HIV and AIDS treatment, while only about two million people are receiving it.

He says the agreement will lower costs of 16 anti-retroviral drugs, including a once-daily pill considered the gold-standard of treatment in the West. That treatment will be made available for $339 per patient, per year - about half its current cost.

"This is very important to me. No company will ever die because of the high priced premiums for AIDS drugs. But patients may. I believe in intellectual property, and ensuring that manufacturers earn the profit margin they need to keep the discovery and supply of AIDS medicines sustainable. But that need not prevent us from getting essential life-saving medicines to people who need them in low and middle-income countries alike," he said.

Mr. Clinton said the lower prices were brokered through an agreement with the drug companies Matrix and Cipla. The deal will lower costs on both front-line treatment and also the more expensive second-line treatments required by patients who have developed immunity to their original therapy.

Mr. Clinton says middle-income countries, such as Brazil and Thailand, will now save on average of 50 percent on second-line medicines. Low-income countries across sub-Saharan Africa, Asia and Latin America will see a 25 percent savings.

Joining Mr. Clinton for the announcement were the health ministers of Thailand and Kenya - two countries that say they will benefit greatly from the lowered cost of treatment. Kenya's health minister, Charity Ngilu, says providing second-line treatment would be nearly impossible without the new deal. "We are committed to making treatments available, regardless of cost of medicine or the type of disease. With these new, affordable prices, we will be able to respond," he said.

Thai Health Minister Dr. Mongkol na Songkhla said 100,000 patients in Thailand will benefit from the new plan.

The lower-cost drugs are being financed by UNITAID, an organization founded by France that has member nations in Africa, Latin America and Europe. The drug companies are saving on manufacturing costs in part by securing lower-priced raw materials.