Human Rights Watch Releases Paper Encouraging FTAA Summit Attendees to Reject Agreements Strengthening Patent Protection for HIV/AIDS Drugs
Human Rights Watch on Tuesday released a briefing paper outlining the impact of the proposed Free Trade Area of the Americas on access to HIV/AIDS drugs in Latin America and the Caribbean. The paper advises all parties to the proposed FTAA to oppose any agreement that "strengthens HIV/AIDS drug patents at the expense of public health measures" currently allowed by international trade regulations. FTAA negotiations in Quito, Ecuador, are currently in the seventh week, and the United States has taken a "leading role" in urging stronger patent protections for HIV/AIDS medications, according to the briefing. The World Trade Organization's Trade Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Agreement (TRIPS), which governs international drug patents, currently requires WTO member states to grant 20-year patent protection on all technical innovations, including HIV/AIDS drugs (Human Rights Watch release, 10/29). Under TRIPS, developing nations that declare a public health emergency can use waivers to issue compulsory licenses to manufacture, and differential pricing to import, patented antiretroviral drugs (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 10/25). "If this were anthrax in the U.S. Postal Service and not AIDS in the developing world, the United States would be using every emergency provision TRIPS has to offer, and then some," Jonathan Cohen, researcher with HRW's HIV/AIDS and Human Rights program (Human Rights Watch release, 10/29).
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