HIV treatment enables People Living with HIV (PLHIV) to better manage their personal, physical; and mental health, and wellbeing. Antiretroviral Treatment (ART) also provides PLHIV with choices in their relationships and in their desire to have children, as treatment makes them less infectious to their partners. This empowers PLHIV to assert their sexual and reproductive health and rights.
Using HIV treatment to stop onward transmission is not new. Advances in vertical transmission, for example, have led to nearly 100 per cent effectiveness in preventing new infections amongst new-borns. Similarly post-exposure prophylaxis has also proven to be a ‘treatment as prevention’ option following exposure to HIV.
Clinical trials testing other ‘treatment as prevention’ approaches must be in line with World Health Organisation (WHO) ART Guidelines and recognize the significance of supportive legal and policy environments. Not recognizing these conditions can lead to oversimplified HIV prevention efforts that focus solely on science and ignore the full spectrum of social challenges and barriers shaping the prevention needs of PLHIV.
The Free Trade Agreements (FTAs) that are currently being negotiated between India and the European Union can strongly affect access to ART. These agreements will cause an impact on access to treatment not only for people in India, but also for all patients from countries receiving triple therapy manufactured in India. In the 2000s, the competition of generic drugs (mainly exported by India) allowed the significant reduction of the cost of HIV treatments, and therefore millions of people to have access to it. The agreements that are currently being negotiated threaten access to care for all those who are waiting to receive treatment worldwide, and challenge all the progress achieved in the fight against AIDS.
The Communities living with HIV and Tuberculosis, and affected by Malaria Delegation (Communities Delegation) of the Board of the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria support UNAIDS, WHO and UNDP on assisting countries in using Trade Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) flexibilities to improve access to HIV treatment.
The Communities Delegation also supports HIV+ groups and individuals, and concerned Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) both in the country and at the international level, in denouncing agreements that adversely affect access to treatment. Increasing the duration of patents and monopolies of drug companies on vital medicines have adverse consequences on access to health products especially to PLHIV worldwide.
The Communities Delegation demands immediate stopping of such agreements that threaten the lives of millions of people and call attention to and condemn the FTA negotiations that include TRIPS-plus measures, and request for the Global Fund Secretariat to assess the financial impact of potential trade agreements, share this analysis publicly, and adopt procurement systems that make optimal use of TRIPS flexibilities including encouraging countries to use compulsory licences to ensure the Global Fund does not pay excessive premiums for patented drugs.
The Communities Delegation stands in opposition to any and all proposals that negatively impact access to medicines in these FTAs including:
DATA EXCLUSIVITY that prevents governments from relying on clinical trial data to register generic versions of medicines even if they are off-patent, their patents have expired or are revoked and complicates the issuance of compulsory licenses.
PATENT TERM EXTENSIONS that extend patent life beyond 20 years.
INCREASING PATENT SCOPE that significantly increases the number of medicines under patent by forcing governments to give 20-year monopolies on new uses and new forms of old medicines thus allowing the extension of monopolies on these medicines by a decade or more through minor changes in drug formulation or process.
PATENT LINKAGE that prevents the registration of generic versions of patented medicines thus undermining the early working and research exceptions and that delays generic entry even when a compulsory licence is issued; the patent expires or is revoked.
RESTRICTIONS ON COMPULSORY LICENCES that seek to limit the right of all countries to use compulsory licences to ensure access to medicines for all even though international treaties and declarations have repeatedly affirmed this right.
RESTRICTIONS ON PARALLEL IMPORTS that prevent the import of the cheapest priced patented drugs from anywhere in the world.
INVESTMENT RULES that allow foreign companies to sue governments in private arbitration over domestic health policies like price reduction measures and may prevent governments from promoting local production.
BORDER MEASURES that will deny medicines to patients in other developing countries with custom officials seizing generic medicines in transit or that are being exported.
INJUNCTIONS that undermine the independence of the judiciary in developing countries to place the right to health of patients over profits of multinational companies.
OTHER INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY ENFORCEMENT MEASURES that put third parties like treatment providers at risk of police actions and court cases and draws the whole manufacturing, distribution and supply chain for generic medicines into litigation.
We also stand in opposition to all other bullying tactics employed by developed countries and multinational companies to pressure developing countries to adopt such harmful laws and policies including through the US Special 301 report, training of judges and government officials, continuous litigation and other forms of lobbying and pressure.
WE CALL ON:
The GOVERNMENTS OF THE UNITED STATES, EUROPEAN UNION, SWITZERLAND, NORWAY, ICELAND, LIECHTENSTEIN, JAPAN, NEW ZEALAND, AUSTRALIA, and all other developed countries to immediately withdraw any and all TRIPS-plus provisions in intellectual property and investment chapters in FTA negotiations, to immediately cease all other forms of pressure and lobbying with developing and least developed countries and to scrap Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA).
NATIONAL GOVERNMENTS IN THE GLOBAL SOUTH to band together and refuse to accept any further restrictions on production, registration, supply, import or export of generic medicines; to launch South-South collaboration on an urgent basis to put in place a sustainable, affordable pipeline of generic medicines for future generations; call for an immediate review of TRIPS and its impact on access to medicines in developing and least developed countries.
GOVERNMENTS IN THE GLOBAL SOUTH THAT HAVE ALREADY SIGNED FTAs that restrict access to affordable medicines to immediately review and reverse all such provisions in their FTAs and rollback harmful laws and policies that are preventing access to affordable medicines.
ALL GOVERNMENTS to immediately end secrecy around FTA negotiations, make negotiating texts available for public scrutiny and to support through open, transparent and public consultations assessments of the impact of such negotiations on the right to health and other rights.
ALL PARLIAMENTS & CONSTITUTIONAL BODIES to immediately request FTA negotiating texts; review their impact on the right to health and access to medicines; refuse to endorse or ratify any FTAs that have been signed with provisions that undermine their people’s right to access affordable treatment.
UNAIDS & THE UN SYSTEM to go beyond issuing a statement and craft a proactive strategy to support the right to health in this context; make this issue a key topic at all up-coming events and High Level meetings, ensure full representation of community representatives and health groups at these events, analyse the effects of potential trade agreements on access to medicines, share this analysis publicly and provide technical assistance to governments and civil society to ensure that FTAs do not undermine human rights. Specifically, UNAIDS must unequivocally condemn and urgently work to prevent the signing of FTAs that include any TRIPS-plus measures if they truly want to scale-up access to treatment, prevent 1 million new infections annually and if Treatment 2.0 is to actually succeed.
The WORLD HEALTH ORGANIZATION to stop retreating from its policy work on intellectual property and access to medicines, to ensure that the WHO does not become a proponent of TRIPS-plus measures and to actively support and encourage countries in using their rights in TRIPS to protect health and promote access to medicines for all.
CIVIL SOCIETY GROUPS, PEOPLE LIVING WITH HIV, ALL COMMUNITIES FACING COMMUNICABLE, CHRONIC AND/OR NON-COMMUNICABLE DISEASES in the North and the South to join forces to halt any and all trade agreements that restrict access to generic medicines.
The Communities Delegation stands in solidarity with all other people and movements whose rights to life, health, livelihood, equality, equity, food, environment, knowledge, traditional systems of life and livelihood will also be negatively impacted by these FTAs that threaten to widen the gap between the rich and the poor not only between countries but within countries as well.
Rachel Ong, Communications Focal Point
C/O Action for AIDS, Singapore
35 Kelantan Lane #02-01
Office: +41 (22) 575 48 33
Mobile: +65 9067 3183
Email and Skype: email@example.com
FTA contact person in the Communities Delegation:
Shaun Mellors: ShaunM@foundation.co.za
Lorena Di Giano: firstname.lastname@example.org
Andrew Hunter: email@example.com
Alexander Curashov: firstname.lastname@example.org