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Merck launches AIDS advocacy programme

Merck has partnered with The Black AIDS Institute on a new AIDS awareness and advocacy programme called the Black Treatment Advocates Network

Merck has partnered with The Black AIDS Institute, a nonprofit think-tank, on a new AIDS awareness and advocacy programme called the Black Treatment Advocates Network. The programme aims to ensure that black Americans with HIV receive the care and treatment they need by reaching out to them through treatment advocates trained by the Institute.

The Advocates Network will also work to strengthen local and national leadership surrounding AIDS policy; educate black communities about AIDS and treatment for the disease; and advocate for policy change and research priorities.

Blacks with HIV are 59 per cent less likely than whites to be receiving treatment, according to figures from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention quoted by the Institute.

Training for the advocates in the programme will include web-based education as well as regional programmes around the country. In addition, a programme website will offer the advocates a number of resources to support their work.

The efforts are beginning with pilot programmes in three US cities this year: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; Houston, Texas; and Jackson, Mississippi.

Merck also has a number of other AIDS education initiatives underway, but most are aimed at addressing the global AIDS crisis rather than US patients. The company's AIDS drug portfolio is centred around Isentress (raltegravir), which was launched in 2007 as the first integrase inhibitor on the market and has become a PR challenge for the company, as a number of AIDS advocacy organisations have vocally criticised its pricing, which is higher than other AIDS drugs in the US market. 

16th August 2010

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