BACKGROUND: Transmission of HIV from mother-to-child during pregnancy, labor, or breastfeeding is the primary cause of pediatric HIV infection in sub-Saharan Africa. A regimen of single-dose nevirapine administered to both HIV-positive pregnant women and their infants has been shown to lower the risk of mother-to-child transmission (MTCT) of HIV. In an effort to facilitate scale-up of PMTCT programs in low-income countries, Boehringer Ingelheim, the manufacturer of Viramune (branded nevirapine), initiated the Viramune Donation Programme (VDP) in 2000. The aim of this study was to evaluate the impact of the VDP on participating institutions.
METHODS: A total of 164 institutions in 60 countries were included in the VDP over its 11-year duration. An online quantitative and qualitative questionnaire was submitted to all program managers. The questionnaire collected data on the impact of the VDP on initiation and scale-up of PMTCT services, operational capacity, national PMTCT policies, access to funding, and national and international partnerships. Participants were asked for their opinion of how VDP was perceived by different stakeholders (medical community, patients, government authorities, communities).
RESULTS: Ninety-nine managers (60.4%) in 34 countries responded to the online questionnaire; 89 of institutions (89.9%) were located in Africa The most positive aspects of the VDP identified were: helped to expand PMTCT services (85.9% of program managers), reduced stigma against HIV-positive pregnant women, increased social support mechanisms (78.8%), fostered partnerships with national and international organizations (69.0%), and encouraged access to donor funding (63.0%). Implementation of the VDP triggered improvements in training hospitals and logistical capacity and was associated with changes in policy strategies at the national level.
CONCLUSION: A drug donation program such as the VDP can act as a catalyst for systemic changes at the institutional and national levels. The VDP provides a model for how private initiatives can have a significant impact on public health issues and foster diverse public-private partnerships among governments, commercial organizations, local institutions, and international NGOs.