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CDC HIV/AIDS/Viral Hepatitis/STD/TB Prevention News Update

An Altered AIDS Debate


Washington Post (11.02.01) - Friday, November 02, 2001

"Rich countries have been so indifferent to the developing world's AIDS crisis that it is easy to overlook an instance in which they have done the right thing. In a speech on Tuesday Robert Zoellick, the administration's trade representative, announced two concessions to developing countries that cannot afford patented AIDS drugs. Provided they are implemented in good faith, these ought to be enough to silence the controversy on drug pricing that has consumed the AIDS debate. ...

"Mr. Zoellick's first concession was that the world's poorest countries should have until 2016 to implement patent laws; previously, the World Trade Organization's rules had made 2006 the deadline. This means that for the next 14 years poor countries can buy cheap generic drugs without infringing patent law, since such laws will not exist. Second, Mr. Zoellick proposed a moratorium of at least five years on WTO challenges to African countries' efforts to fight AIDS and other killer diseases. This means that South Africa, a country that already has patent law, will be able to use the flexibility in its own statutes to access cheap drugs without being hauled before the WTO's dispute settlement panel.

"These two concessions do not help countries outside Africa that are too rich to qualify for the 10-year extension but still face a terrible AIDS toll. ...But the US position does offer something to these countries: The draft declaration for the Doha summit reaffirms countries' right to circumvent patent rules in case of health emergencies such as AIDS. ...

"The AIDS activists who have fought the US government over its support for international patents should now rethink their stance. They have moved policy away from a morally untenable insistence that poor countries espouse rich countries' patent system, and that is a triumph. ...The danger now is that continued outrage against even a moderated international patent system will drive drug companies to withdraw from research into AIDS and other politically charged diseases. That would be a tragedy."


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Information in this article was accurate in November 2, 2001. The state of the art may have changed since the publication date. This material is designed to support, not replace, the relationship that exists between you and your doctor. Always discuss treatment options with a doctor who specializes in treating HIV.