The neoliberalization of the HIV response, the breakdown of the Brazilian response, the implementation of the ‘90-90-90’ strategy, Latin-American experiences in medication access, and the development of access agendas within social movements were just a few of the topics presented at the seminar “Medication Access Policy and Human Rights” – organized by ABIA and the Grupo de Trabalho de Propriedade Intelectual (GTPI – a collective of activists coordinated by ABIA).
The event took place September 26-28 in Rio de Janeiro, bringing together activists, academics, and specialists from Brazil, Argentina, Peru, Colombia, Morocco, South Africa, and Russia. 280 individuals came to the event; while some 500 viewed via live-feed video, which was broadcast online over social media outlets.
The seminar was formally opened on the evening of September 26. Celso Amorim, the current Chair of the Executive Board of UNITAID, gave the opening remarks. He touched on important moments in the development of patent-related negotiations, including the UN’s High Level Panel on Access to Medicines, which states intellectual property is the most serious question in right to access. The evening continued with welcoming remarks from Richard Parker, ABIA’s president-director.
The seminar had six themed roundtable-talks with presentations from more than 20 specialists, such as Lynete Mabote (ARASA, South Africa), Lorena Di Giano (REDLAM), Javier Llamosa (AIS, Peru), Richard Parker, Pedro Chequer, Renata Reis, and Eloan Pinheiro, among others.
On the 27th, during the roundtable “Sustainability, Health Systems, and Human Rights”, Lynette Mabote (ARASA – South Africa) questioned how it is possible for South Africa and other countries to concern themselves with the 90-90-90 goals if previous goals have yet to be reached. “The previous goal of 0-0-0 (0 new infections, 0 discrimination and 0 deaths), which was supposed to have been completed by 2015, has never been met” she declared.
Richard Parker (ABIA) discussed how factors like exclusively- biomedical approaches to HIV and AIDS, and conservative pressures have contributed to the decline of the Brazilian response in the past few years. He remarked that historically speaking, pressure from social movements was the main catalyst driving the many Brazilian successes in the field of AIDS. “Only political mobilization can make things happen”, he stated.
Also during “Sustainability, Health Systems, and Human Rights”, Lorena Di Giano (RedLAM) discussed the abusive pricing of essential medicines in Argentina and other Latin American countries. She denounced big-pharm attacks on countries and their lifelines.
Medication and Rights
At the roundtable “Incorporating Practices, Medication, and Rights: Therapeutic Activism in Perspective”, Mayra Vasquez (Ifarma) spoke about Colombia’s experience with compulsory licensing mechanisms. According to Vasquez, the country has suffered retaliation from pharmaceutical companies for using such legal measures. In her opinion, efforts to create regional production of medicine within Latin America would be one of the principal solutions to the demands and setbacks from patent negotiation within the region.
Javier Llamoza (AIS), concerning the use of atazanavir in Peru, revealed that between 2013 and 2014, the country spent 53% of its total AIDS funding on that medication alone. This abusive pricing, and the difficulty of negotiating with pharmaceutical companies, resulted in Peru requesting a compulsory license.
Gonzalo Berrón (FES and Vigencia) described how patents protect the rights of pharmaceutical companies at the expense of the rights of people. He stated they also restrict a country’s capacity to deliver public policy. He notes that the guiding principals of human rights (to protect, nurture, and to progress) are not fulfilled in negotiation with companies.
The final day was dedicated to the topic of Hepatitis C and the amplification of access rights. Pedro Villard, of GTPI/ABIA, discussed its absence within health agendas. “Imagine the scandal if AIDS had a cure, but was not made public. This happened with Hepatitis C”, he stated, maintaining that the AIDS movement is merging closer and closer to Hepatitis.
Eloan Pinheiro, a public health consultant, described that in Brazil alone, there are close to 600,000 confirmed cases of Hepatitis, yet just 39% of those cases, and scarcely 4% of all estimated cases, have been treated. She declared, “the state takes zero responsibility for the pathology.”
Arair Azambuja, do Movimento Brasileiro de Luta Contra as Hepatites Virais, denunciou que, em 2014, o Brasil contabilizou oito mil pessoas com câncer hepático. Arair Azambuja, from the Brazilian Movement to Fight Against Hepatitis, denounced that in 2014, Brazil reported 8,000 individuals with hepatical cancer. From these, just 1,756 had liver transplants. Azambuja presented a study from the United States which indicated that 75% of the population of living with hepatitis in the US are between the ages of 52 and 70, In Brazil, the age range of those most affected is 51 to 60 years old.
At the end of the event, Veriano Terto Jr, Treatment Access Coordinator at ABIA, stressed that collaboration from all was necessary to ensure the continuity of actions and articulations among regional and global networks in support of social justice, universality and equality, principals of the SUS.
Richard Parker, director-president of ABIA, emphasized that strong networks and international collaboration help strengthen a base of resistence that can confront the current neoliberal and conservative trends.
Spanish version here