AIDS Activists Launch United Nations Complaint on Impact of Obama Administration Trade Policies on Access to Medicines

For Immediate Release

Global Access Project
Contact: 

Jennifer Flynn, Health GAP,
+1 917.517.5202, jflynn@healthgap.org

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

VIENNA, Austria - 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-compliant
measures 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 at www.healthgap.org/UNComplaint.

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