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JUNE 23, 1999  1:58 PM
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
CONTACT:
Human Rights Campaign
Vice President Gore and AIDS
 
WASHINGTON - 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.

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