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White House Gets It!

Today's Executive Order Will Alleviate Suffering
in Developing Countries

May 10, 2000

Contact: or call: 202-530-8030

Washington, DC -- AIDS Action today praised President Clinton for signing an executive order that will for the first time allow developing countries to import and manufacture cheaper versions of the world's most effective AIDS drugs without fear of punishment from U.S. trade authorities.

"Americans can be proud of their president today," said Jeff Jacobs, director of government affairs for AIDS Action. "With the stroke of his pen Bill Clinton has signaled that this country is seriously engaged in the global war on AIDS. America can and should do more, but this is a bold, important first step."

The executive order signed today will enable those countries hardest hit by AIDS to provide their citizens with powerful drugs that have been proven to lower viral load in those persons with HIV. Lowering a patient's HIV viral load is associated with dramatic improvements in overall health, as well as decreased infectiousness.

"The best medicines available to fight AIDS are outrageously expensive. Almost nobody in developing countries can afford these therapies, yet that's where the epidemic is raging," said Jacobs. "Today's action by the White House will help get these drugs to where they're desperately needed. This is great news."

"In 1998 AIDS Action gave the Administration an "F" for its international AIDS efforts when we released our annual report card. Two years later there's a real sense that the White House gets it," said Jacobs. "Declaring the global AIDS epidemic a threat to national security demonstrated a heightened American commitment to solving a world problem. Though some people viewed that move with skepticism, today's action proves it wasn't just a publicity stunt."

AIDS Action's May 8 Letter to President Clinton

May 8, 2000

The Honorable William Jefferson Clinton
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20500

Dear Mr. President:

On behalf of AIDS Action, the national voice on AIDS, representing all people affected by HIV and AIDS and the 3,200 community-based organizations that serve them, I am writing to urge you to issue an executive order allowing millions of individuals living with HIV and AIDS worldwide to have access to lifesaving HIV related medications through the use of compulsory licensing and parallel importation.

Last week, your Administration took a critical step toward ending the growing global AIDS pandemic by declaring AIDS a national security threat. AIDS Action commends you for recognizing that the battle against HIV must be fought on all fronts. We must marshal all of our resources if we are to follow through on our commitment to address HIV disease globally. This must include a trade policy that allows countries to provide access to HIV related medications.

Access to treatment is of critical importance to foreign governments attempting to address the global AIDS epidemic. Current estimates are that 47 million people worldwide are already infected, and that number will more than double by the year 2005. AIDS now kills more people annually than any other infectious disease, and in many sub-Saharan African nations, one-quarter of all children have already been orphaned by AIDS.

It is imperative that the federal government's response to the global AIDS epidemic be broad and include funding for prevention, research and treatment, improvements in infrastructure that are critical to meaningful access to therapies as well as trade policy that assists countries in improving access to essential medications.

AIDS Action urges you to issue an executive order that would support the efforts of foreign governments to secure access to treatment for individuals affected by HIV/AIDS, including compulsory licensing and parallel importation, two important tools for improved access to lifesaving treatments for individuals worldwide.

We would also urge that an executive order ensure that the federal government will not attempt to impose on countries conditions additional to those included under the provisions of the Trade Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) Agreements and that trade sanctions will not be leveled against countries that enact compulsory licensing or parallel importation legislation. Such legislation is fully compliant under the TRIPS Agreements.

Through the designation of AIDS as a national security threat and efforts such as the LIFE Initiative, the federal government has demonstrated that it is committed to addressing the global AIDS emergency. We again urge you to issue an executive order permitting countries to gain access to HIV related medications through compulsory licensing and parallel importation. The United States must continue to wage the war against HIV disease by helping countries around the world to alleviate the suffering of an entire generation of men and women, and perhaps secure a healthier future for their children. AIDS Action looks forward to working with you to ensure that US trade policy is in the best interest of the millions of men, women and children living with HIV/AIDS throughout the world.


Jeff Jacobs
Director of Government Affairs

cc: The Office of the Vice President of the United States
cc: Sandra Thurman, Office of National AIDS Policy
cc: Charlene Barshefsky, United States Trade Representative

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This article was provided by AIDS Action Council.