[Ip-health] UN Asked to Investigate US Trade Policies on AIDS & Access to Medicines

Matthew Kavanagh matthew at healthgap.org
Tue Jul 20 07:23:43 PDT 2010

For Immediate Release
Health Gap (Global Access Project)

AIDS Activists Launch United Nations Complaint
on Impact of Obama Administration Trade Policies on Access to Medicines
Bush-era Policies Haven’t Changed Despite Obama Pledges, Say Activists
20 July 2010—At the International AIDS Conference in Vienna, Austria  
today AIDS activists from the U.S., Africa, Asia, and Latin America  
filed a complaint against the United States with the United Nations  
Special Rapporteur on the Right to Health.  The complaint argues that  
the United States, working side by side with multinational  
pharmaceutical companies, is using its trade policies to coerce  
countries to adopt intellectual property policies that increase the  
costs of medicines and violate the human rights of their citizens.  
These policies directly contradict the promises President Obama made  
while he was a candidate, when he committed to 'break the stranglehold  
that a few big drug and insurance companies have on these life-saving  
drugs' and pledged support for 'the rights of sovereign nations to  
access quality-assured, low-cost generic medication to meet their  
pressing public health needs.'

Specifically, the complaint alleges that the U.S. threatens countries  
with trade sanctions for making use of legal, WTO-compliantmeasures  
that bring down the cost of AIDS drugs and other essential medicines.  
The U.S. government does so by listing these countries on “watch  
lists” in a process known as “Special 301,” which threatens sanctions  
against foreign countries for their intellectual property laws. In  
2010 the U.S. put countries including Thailand, India, and Brazil—key  
manufacturers of AIDS drugs for African and other developing nations— 
on these lists for failing to adopt intellectual property laws that  
would undermine people’s health in order to maximize profits for big  
pharmaceutical companies.

“President Obama promised to support the rights of countries to make  
low-cost AIDS medicines available to their people, but instead his  
trade representative is threatening countries who are doing just  
that,” said Matthew Kavanagh, Director of US Advocacy at Health GAP  
(Global Access Project), a US-based AIDS and human rights group. A  
range of health experts testified at a recent USTR hearing on Special  
301. However, the Special 301 Report released by the White House in  
2010 virtually ignored this expert guidance. “President Obama is  
continuing policies that are holdovers from Bush—putting drug company  
profits over peoples lives,” said Kavanagh.

“The complaint filed today demonstrates that the continuation of  
Special 301 attacks on affordable medicine policies violate  
international human rights obligations in addition to the Obama  
administration's own policies," said Sean Flynn, a Professor of Law  
and American University and the Associate Director of the Program on  
Information Justice and Intellectual Property.

“Due to compulsory licenses, a great number of Thai patients now have  
access to essential medicines for free through the national health  
insurance system and have regained their quality of life.,” said  
Supatra Nakapew, Foundation for AIDS Rights in Thailand. “Through the  
complaint submitted to the Special Rapporteur for the Right to Health,  
we urge the U.S. government to respect human rights and stop  
pressuring Thailand and other developing countries. Moreover, the U.S.  
government should encourage developing countries to actively promote  
the use of TRIPS flexibility measures to increase access to anti- 
retroviral and other essential medicines.”

Over a dozen groups including Health GAP (Global Access Project), the  
International Treatment Preparedness Coalition, the Deli Network of  
People Living with HIV/AIDS, the Thai NGOs Coalition on AIDS and Thai  
AIDS Treatment Action Group (and several other Thai groups) and the  
Agua Buena Human Rights Association of Costa Rica submitted the  
complaint with legal counsel from Sean Flynn of American University’s  
Program on Information Justice and Intellectual Property. The full  
complaint is online atwww.healthgap.org/UNComplaint.

Contact: Jennifer Flynn, Health GAP, +1 917.517.5202, jflynn at healthgap.org

Matthew Kavanagh
Health GAP (Global Access Project)
tel +1 202 355-6343 // mob +1 202 486-2488
matthew at healthgap.org

Matthew Kavanagh
Health GAP (Global Access Project)
tel +1 202 355-6343 // mob +1 202 486-2488
matthew at healthgap.org

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