FTA signals death knell for AIDS patients

Source: Free Malaysia Today

K Pragalath| December 8, 2011

Malaysia’s free trade agreement with the US will deprive them of affordable generic drugs.

PETALING JAYA: When Malaysia signs its free trade agreement (FTA) with the United States next July, it will be practically killing off thousands of Malaysians living with HIV and AIDS, according to an activist group.

The cost of medicines for AIDS patients would become prohibitive, said Edward Low, who heads the Positive Malaysian Treatment Access and Advocacy Group.

“We depend on anti-retroviral generic drugs,” he said. “With the FTA imposed, we would no longer be able to purchase generic drugs.”

To make matters worse, not all patients receive subsidised medication.

“The government is running on a deficit budget and there is not enough in the budget to subsidise medicine costs,” Low said.

Fewer than 10,000 AIDS patients receive subsidised medication. However, according to Low, the total in need of such medication is 27,600.

The United Nations estimates that 150,000 Malaysians are HIV positive, but the reported number of cases is only 93,000, according to Low.

In Kuala Lumpur today, Malaysian AIDS Council president Mohd Zaman Khan failed to hand over a memorandum against the FTA to Barbara Weisel, the Assistant US Trade Representative for South East Asia and the Pacific.

The attempt to submit the memorandum was made during a protest outside the International Trade and Industry Ministry, where negotiations on the FTA were taking place.

A representative from the ministry eventually turned up to collect the protest note.

Speaking to FMT, Zaman said he had a message for American drug producers: “They must not have a monopoly over drugs. They should make them available to all. It is wrong to profit heavily from the sick.”

(Main photo courtesy of Third World Network.)

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