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Clinton expands program for cheaper AIDS drugs

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Former President Clinton announces new deals to provide cheaper HIV tests and drugs.

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NEW YORK (CNN) -- Former President Bill Clinton announced more deals with pharmaceutical companies to provide cheaper AIDS tests and drugs -- a plan that could save developing countries tens of millions of dollars.

"Too many people die simply because they can't afford, or don't have access to, the drugs. Too many people are being infected because most of the people who have the virus today have not been tested," Clinton told reporters on Thursday.

The deals, which were brokered by the Clinton Foundation HIV/AIDS Initiative, will cut the cost of rapid HIV tests in half for as many as 50 countries where the foundation operates.

It will also cut the cost of Efavirenz and Abacavir -- anti-retroviral drugs that slow the spread of disease.

"This agreement can help save hundreds of thousands of lives," he said.

Four companies will offer the tests for HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, at prices ranging from 49 to 65 cents, or about half the normal cost.

Prices for the antiviral drugs will drop to about 30 percent below market price. Four companies will offer Efavirenz for $240 per patient per year and one company will charge $447 for a year of Abacavir.

Last year, the Clinton Foundation donated $10 million to help subsidize the cost of pediatric AIDS medication for children in rural Africa. (Full story)

According to the Clinton Foundation, more than 90 percent of the 40 million people living with HIV do not know that they are infected. Developing countries need to run at least 200 million HIV tests in the next four years.

"They need to know their status. These HIV rapid tests make that possible even in the most rural areas of the world because they're easy to use, only take a drop of blood and, most important, give results in 20 minutes while the patient is with a counselor or a health-care worker," Clinton said.

With the discounts, Brazil could save $10 million if it reaches its goal of testing 7 million people this year, up from 3 million last year, according to the foundation.

When people infected with HIV become resistant to "first-line" drugs, such as Efavirenz, they require newer "second-line" drug combinations, which can cost five to 10 times more.

Abacavir is one of the "second-line" AIDS drug combinations recommended by the World Health Organization.

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