"We are strictly adhering to patent law and will continue to do so in the future."
Qi Xiaoqiu, Director-General of the Chinese Ministry of Health's Department of Disease Control, quoted in a September 9, 2002, Associated Press report entitled, "China Denies Plans to Make AIDS Drugs." Qi denied news reports that he had suggested China violate patents if foreign companies did not offer discounted antiretroviral drugs. According to the Associated Press, China has begun treating patients with a domestically produced version of zidovudine (ZDV), for which patents recently expired. Qi said that 10 more Chinese firms have applied for permission to manufacture generic versions of AIDS drugs with expired patents, and might be producing them by year's end.
"We are tired of being thrown in the bush re sena go jewa ke batho [after sex]. Even the police rape us or threaten us with prison if we refuse sex. They do this knowing we have no place to run to."
An anonymous Botswanan commercial sex worker in a September 9, 2002, Inter Press Service article, "Reaching Young People to Beat AIDS." The article cited results from a survey of commercial sex workers in the Broadhurst, Bontleng, and Old Naledi townships of Gaborone, Botswana. On average, the women reported having three clients a night, and up to six around payday. The price they are paid for their services ranges from US$8 to US$33. Clients pay less for sex with a condom. Most prefer sex without a condom. Of the commercial sex workers interviewed, half were aged 15 to 24 and a quarter were aged 12 to 14. Most were recruited into this work by friends or family, some as young as nine years old. Botswana, with a population of 1.5 million, has the world's highest rates of HIV infection, with 40 percent of adults infected. The United Nations Foundation (UNF) is sponsoring a US$1.8 million, three-year AIDS awareness project targeting at-risk youth, including commercial sex workers, in poor Gaborone townships. The Urban Youth Project (UYP) is part of Telling the Story, a UNF-sponsored program to improve AIDS awareness among youth in seven Southern African countries.
"And thus it begins to develop according to the African scenario, where the majority of the HIV patients contracted it heterosexually. ... This will be very grave for the country's demographics, because 80 percent of the infected people are between 15 and 30. They will die, and they will not produce children."
Vadim Pokrovsky, Director of Russia's Federal AIDS Center, argued in a September 9, 2002, Los Angeles Times article that although the number of newly registered HIV cases has been dropping in the last year, the drop-off makes the situation no less alarming. Pokrovsky explained that the coming together of a poor economy, a burgeoning plague of intravenous drug use, and an overreaction to the country's new freedoms, has landed Russia on the cusp of an epidemic. At least 201,000 Russians are reportedly HIV-infected (although it is estimated the actual number is four to six times higher). According to UNAIDS, there are more than 1 million cases of HIV infection across the former Soviet Union. Pokrovsky worries that the number of new cases in which HIV was transmitted heterosexually rose to 7 percent compared with 4.3 percent last year. Russia's leading AIDS official stated that if just half of the HIV-infected population transmits HIV to one sexual partner per year -- which Pokrovsky considers conservative based on the African experience -- Russia could have as many as 5 million HIV cases by 2010.
"With the advent of life-prolonging HIV treatment, and price barriers falling, access to treatment is now at the heart of realizing the human rights of people living with HIV/AIDS."
UNAIDS Executive Director Peter Piot in a September 10, 2002, statement regarding a joint announcement by UNAIDS and the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights that they have updated Guideline 6 of the International Guidelines on HIV/AIDS and Human Rights to highlight the need for better access to HIV/AIDS treatment. In Guideline 6, the UN agencies stress that people with HIV/AIDS must have access to medicine and other forms of treatment and call for international cooperation in providing access. According to the two agencies, the revised guideline breaks new ground by calling for specific actions on the part of governments, including the creation of national treatment plans, with specific resources committed and timetables established, leading to universal access; ensuring "vulnerable populations" have access; setting up mechanisms whereby people with HIV/AIDS can "challenge inequalities and discrimination" in treatment provision; ensuring quality control; and supporting the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria.
Back to the October 2002 issue of IAPAC Monthly.