News Release

U.S. Policies on AIDS: Interviews Available


Earlier this week, protesters at the 14th International Conference on AIDS in Barcelona [see: ] shouted “Shame! Shame! Shame!” as U.S. health secretary Tommy Thompson delivered a speech about U.S. policies regarding the global HIV/AIDS crisis. The conference continues through Friday. Available for interviews:

Achmat, an anti-apartheid leader in South Africa since the 1976 Soweto uprising, is HIV-positive. He has refused to take anti-retroviral medicines until they are available to all South African HIV/AIDS patients through the public health system. In 1998, he founded the Treatment Action Campaign but was unable to travel to the Barcelona conference due to his deteriorating health. He said today: “Just because we are poor, just because we are black, just because we live far from you, does not mean that our lives should be valued any less. We appeal to the people of the United States to urge their government to take appropriate action … when thousands of people in poor countries die every day because of lack of access to treatment and medications. Generic competition to brand-name drugs is essential to making life-saving drugs for AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria affordable.”
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Jamie Love is the director of the Consumer Project on Technology and is in Barcelona. Palmedo, an analyst with CPT, said today: “The WHO should assume leadership by creating a patent pool for essential medicines. This would mean pooling health patents together and licensing them to low-cost producers as needed in return for a royalty which would be paid to the pool and distributed back to the patent-holders. This is exactly what the U.S. government did in World War I when airplane construction was blocked by patents. If we could do it then to kill people, we can do it now to keep millions from dying from AIDS.”
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Russell, a member of the U.S.-based Health GAP Coalition, is in Barcelona attending the summit. She said today: “Health Secretary Thompson called the U.S. policy compassionate and generous, but the truth is that it is neither. In proportion to our wealth, we are the stingiest donor among rich countries. The administration recently thwarted a bipartisan effort in the Senate, replacing the proposed $700 million with a $500 million pledge that would take funds away from existing programs. In other words, no new money. The latest U.S. initiatives would make it difficult for poor countries without production capacities to import generic drugs…. Last month, the CEO of GlaxoSmithKline, the largest producer of AIDS drugs in the world, chaired the ‘President’s Dinner’ which raised over $30 million for the Republican Party, with 21 drug companies paying $250,000 each.”
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Director of ACT UP Philadelphia and a member of the Health GAP Coalition, Davids is in Barcelona. She said today: “What was remarkable about the protest of Secretary Thompson is that the people who were there to attend the session gave the protesters a standing ovation. This speaks to the frustration of people around the world with the callous disregard for human life that the U.S. government has shown.”

For more information, contact at the Institute for Public Accuracy:
Sam Husseini, (202) 347-0020; David Zupan, (541) 484-9167