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On World AIDS Day, Warnings of TPP's "Real Threat" to Medication Access

'Our trade deals should put people before profits, but TPP would do just the opposite.'

A Red Cross volunteer counts tablets for an HIV-positive patient in Kenya. (Photo: International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies/flickr/cc)

The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), a controversial 12-nation deal that critics warn favors corporate power over public health, specifically threatens access to essential drugs for people with HIV and AIDS, an advocacy group warned Tuesday marking World AIDS Day.

"By harming access to live-saving medications, the TPP poses a real threat to our continued progress in fighting the pandemic," said Jerame Davis, executive director of Pride at Work, an AFL-CIO subsidiary that organizes support for labor and LGBTQI issues. "Continued worldwide progress in containing and fighting back against HIV/AIDS means access to affordable drugs."

Provisions in the TPP would allow, among other things, extended patents on biologics that would grant Big Pharma free rein to ratchet up prices on what Pride at Work calls "the most effective" HIV/AIDS medications.

As economist Dean Baker recently explained, "Patent monopolies provide both enormous incentive and opportunity for drug companies to increase profits at the expense of patients."

Such monopolistic protections for drug manufacturers—which already exist to some extent and would only be expanded through the so-called trade deal—"would have a dramatic effect on access to safe and affordable care for millions of people worldwide," Pride at Work said Tuesday.

International aid agency Oxfam in May warned that the TPP would "do more to undermine access to affordable medicines than any previous U.S. trade agreement" and that the agreement's intellectual property provisions "are incoherent and inconsistent with U.S. global health policy."

In one example, Oxfam found that under the TPP's rules, more than half of HIV/AIDS patients in Vietnam would lose access to vital medication. There are over 250,000 people living with those viruses in Vietnam alone.

"World AIDS Day is an annual chance to reflect on our battle against the HIV/AIDS pandemic and a reminder that we have an obligation to care for each other," Davis said Tuesday. "Treatment of those living with the virus is needed not only to save the lives those living with HIV/AIDS, but to prevent new infections as well—those who have access to treatment are less likely to pass on the virus. Our trade deals should put people before profits, but TPP would do just the opposite."

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