Earlier this week Fortune magazine shared a graph of the total number of people living with HIV since the epidemic first began over two decades ago. Under the title "Why the Fight Against AIDS Still Matters, in One Chart," the financial publication revealed that nearly 37 million people are living with HIV around the world.
After plateauing for a period earlier this century, the number of people living with HIV has been rising again, reaching 36.7 million in 2015. The greatest burden of HIV continues to occur in African nations with fewer resources than the West and, the magazine reported, "the world needs even more affordable drugs."
Fortune highlighted two drug companies, Gilead and Cipla, on their 2016 Change the World list.
California's Gilead Sciences (#4), which makes Truvada and Atripla (among other HIV medications), is number four on Fortune's 2016 list of 50 companies that seem to be operating on Google's famous corporate missive: "Don't be evil." According to Fortune's 2016 Change the World list, Gilead is on the cusp of reaching 10 million people treated with its HIV drugs in developing nations. Those meds are affordable in poorer countries because of Gilead's 10-year-old licensing agreements which enable generic drugmakers to supply affordable versions of the drugs to developing nations.
In 2001, India's Cipla (#46 on Fortune's list) introduced the world’s first 3-in-1 fixed dose combination (Stavudine, Lamivudine, and Nevirapine). Now, a third of people living with HIV in 115 countries are taking a Cipla drug. Like Google, Cipla has a noteworthy motto and mission of its own: their mission is “None shall be denied,” and the motto is “less than a dollar” a dose. In addition to offering low cost drugs directly to consumers, Cipla offers free antiretroviral technology to any African nation looking to produce their own drugs. Cipla has done the same for malaria, and is now trying to produce cancer treatments with the same prescriptions for pennies philosophy.
Two other companies that produce HIV medications made it on Fortune's Change the World list, just not for their HIV meds.
GlaxoSmithKline (#1) Like Gilead, U.K.'s GlaxoSmith, which topped the list, has released drugs from patent protection in developing nations, thus enabling generics to be made at lower costs. In fact, earlier this spring, GSK announced that it will no longer even file drug patents in the poorest regions of the world. It reinvests 20 percent of any profits it makes in the least developed countries into training health workers and building medical infrastructure. Through ViiV (a partnership between GSK and Pfizer), the company researches potential HIV treatments and produces a dozen HIV meds like Triumeq and Rescriptor. This June GSK made a groundbreaking deal to make the HIV drug Tivicay available for Botswana's national effort to test and treat as many citizens as possible.
Johnson & Johnson (#31) The venerable maker of the famed baby powder, Johnson & Johnson is a huge conglomerate that makes everything from HIV meds to hand creames. The company actually made Fortune's list for their work around tuberculosis, the world's most deadly infectious disease. Since 2007, the company has also established licensing agreements with generic manufacturers to make HIV medicines available cheaply in countries with high HIV burdens, including India and sub-Saharan Africa. More recently they modified those agreements to provide access to rilpivirine to 112 low-resource countries, covering over 80 percent of those living with HIV worldwide. The later program was a collaboration between the Johnson & Johnson and The Clinton Health Access Initiative, which was founded by former President Bill and Presidential candidate Hillary Clinton.