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Five major pharmaceutical companies reached an agreement with Central American health secretaries on Wednesday to reduce the cost of anti-HIV drugs for the region by up to 55%, dropping the annual cost of treatment to as low as $1,035 per person per year. The price reductions were announced by GlaxoSmithKline, Bristol-Myers Squibb, Merck, Hoffman-La Roche, and Boehringer Ingelheim. The agreement "is a milestone in the history of the AIDS epidemic, both in Central America and in a global context," according to a statement by the pharmaceutical companies and the health secretaries from Costa Rica, Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador, Nicaragua, and Panama. The secretaries also promised that their governments would formulate plans to provide comprehensive care to AIDS patients. There are 25,000 AIDS cases in Central America, and more than 180,000 Central Americans are HIV-positive, health officials estimate.