[Ip-health] Reuters: Millions will die if India stops AIDS drugs - Sidibe

Joanna Keenan joanna.l.keenan at gmail.com
Wed Jul 6 09:40:13 PDT 2011

Millions will die if India stops AIDS drugs - U.N.


(Reuters) - Millions of people dependent on life-saving generic drugs to
treat HIV/AIDS will die if India stops producing cheap drugs for the
disease due to its trade deal with the European Union, the head of UNAIDS
warned on Tuesday.

The EU and India are currently negotiating a free-trade agreement, which
campaigners say will restrict India's ability to produce anti-retroviral
(ARV) drugs, preventing the world's poor from accessing cheap drugs for
their treatment.

"India should resist removing any flexibility because any trade agreement
which could lead to India not being able to produce will be terrible for
the rest of the world," said Michel Sidibe, executive director for the
Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS).

"Millions of people will die if India cannot produce and Africa will be the
most affected. For me, it is an issue of life or death," he told Reuters in
an interview, adding that about 86 percent of people on treatment were
taking drugs made in India.

The EU-India trade deal includes measures that could delay or restrict
competition from generic medicines by extending patent terms, requiring
data exclusivity and tightening border enforcement rules.

Such moves could drive up prices for India's anti-retroviral treatments,
limit dosage options and delay access to newer and better drugs, said a
U.N. report in September last year.


Thirty years after the HIV/AIDS virus was first discovered, experts say
while substantial progress has been made by the global community in
stemming it, only a fraction of those living with the illness are on

At a high level U.N. meeting last month, nations agreed on a set of
ambitious targets to rid the world of disease, including scaling up the
provision of generics to reach 15 million patients from six million by

The trade deal, Sidibe said, would reverse many of the gains made in
improving the lives of the world's poor.

"We have been fighting for so long to make sure that poor people could have
access to treatment," he said. "For me, it will be the beginning of
reversing all the gains we made on social justice and redistribution of

Sidibe, a Mali national, said African leaders were asking India to really
pay serious attention to any trade agreement which would block them to
produce quality generic drugs for very poor people.

"It is not a rich pocket of people in the developed world who will be
deprived of drugs, it will be the most needy, the most poor."

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