- June 23 - Protesters have recently accused Vice President Gore of helping pharmaceutical
companies to keep AIDS drugs out of reach for the millions of people worldwide
who cannot afford their high cost. At issue is a 1997 law passed by the South
African Parliament allowing local companies to make, market and sell generic versions
of drugs patented by multinational drug companies. For the patent, the South African
government would pay royalties to the effected companies. In response, over 40
companies from around the world have sued the government of South Africa, contending
that it violates the South African constitution. The decision of the South Africa
Court is pending.
HRC opposes any effort
by the Clinton Administration to put pressure on the South African government
or any other country, which acts within the framework of international trade agreements,
to weaken or rescind their effort to get life saving drugs to people who cannot
afford them. We call on the Administration and the Vice President to develop a
trade policy that balances humanitarian and corporate interests. A one-sided policy
that puts the interests of pharmaceutical companies ahead of all other concerns
is not acceptable.
The patent and intellectual
property rights issue is just one part a much broader problem. AIDS drugs alone,
without better health care delivery systems, clean water and other basic necessities
will not relieve the suffering. A comprehensive U.S. policy should include increased
funding for international HIV/AIDS prevention and treatment programs, debt relief
linked to investment in health care infrastructure development and adherence to
international agreements on intellectual property and patents.
HRC and others in the AIDS
community have expressed concern about the Administration's inadequate response
to the global AIDS pandemic. While the number of people with AIDS worldwide has
increased 300% since 1993, U.S. funding for international AIDS efforts has remained
constant. This month, HRC sent a letter to Representative Jesse Jackson, Jr. in
support of his bill, H.R. 772, the Hope for Africa Act, which includes a comprehensive
approach to U.S. policy development. HRC also sent a letter to Vice President
Gore regarding our concerns on both domestic and international HIV/AIDS policy.