USA: The FTAA and the AIDS Crisis in the Global South


Jim Strub, 215-748-1275

As you already know, the governments of the western hemisphere and their corporate bosses are signing our names to the Free Trade Agreement of the Americas as we speak. This secret treaty's being made to destroy activist victories, privatize public services, and gut public safeguards; to roll back everything that 500 years of resistance has won. Our world and our lives are on the auction block. We understand this and thats why we're going to stop them. And people with AIDS and their allies are going to be on the front lines.

ACT-UP and the Health GAP (Global Access Project) Coalition have recently begun a campaign to defeat the FTAA. Our mission is to end the global AIDS pandemic, while the FTAA's mission is to make it worse. If it is put into effect, the FTAA will stop the growing movement by poor countries to manufacture cheap AIDS drugs, to treat the 30 million people with AIDS in the global south.

Unfortunately, because the FTAA threatens so many human rights on so many issues, many anti-globalization activists are not yet aware of the FTAA's grave implications for people with AIDS worldwide. So we'd like to provide all anti-FTAA activists, speakers, roadshows and organizers with information about this issue --- in hopes that our movement's opposition to the FTAA will address it's massive threat to the 30 million people living and dying of AIDS right now in the third world.

Put simply, the FTAA will kill people with AIDS in Brazil --- immediately. But far worse, it may push back the cause of treating AIDS in the third world by decades. And the misery and death this would cause are simply not measurable. Here's a brief summary of the situation.

The New York Times said it with chilling honesty this Sunday; Someday we may look back on 2001 with nostalgia, for a time when AIDS was merely a global health catastrophe. AIDS is hitting the third world in a way not seen since the Black Death killed a quarter of Europe. AIDS is not just a health crisis in some parts of the world; it's causing the wholesale collapse of Africa. More than 20% of people in many sub-Saharan African nations have the virus; for young people in South Africa, the rates are higher than 50%. Ten, twenty years down the road, this disease will be having effects the likes of which we cannot even comprehend now. The world has never yet seen a continent virtually die because it's people are poor. We will.

And that is why they're dying --- they're poor. AIDS is a manageable disease for people in the First World and the rich; triple-cocktail drug therapy has caused AIDS death rates to plummet in places where people have access to them. But the corporations that make those medications charge between 10,000 and 15,000 dollars a year per person. America can afford to make that available to it's people. No third world nation can. This results in a situation where 95% of people with AIDS worldwide have no access to medicine. 30 million people are dying and it's getting worse.

But the pills actually cost pennies to produce. Any developing country could manufacture these drugs and treat AIDS. But pharmaceutical corporations --- the most profitable industry in the world --- depend on their iron-clad patent laws to make billions of dollars in profit. And to protect their power and wealth, the corporations use the American government to force third world nations to not make generic versions of these drugs. It's a simple equation. Because the US forces global trade policies to protect corporate patent rights, 30 million poor people are dying.

So people in the global south and north have started fighting back. American AIDS advocates have brought pressure to bear on their government and rich corporations, while a small number of third world countries have begun defying the pharmaceutical industry and manufacturing the needed medications. These countries --- India, Thailand, Brazil, and South Africa --- have said a big, risky fuck you to the richest industry on earth; because they must. And Brazil is leading the way.

Brazilian civil society forced their government to implement a health plan that does what no other country does --- ensure every human being with AIDS that they will get the treatment they need. In just a few years their comprehensive program has cut AIDS deaths there in half, and caused infection numbers there to be a mere fraction of what analysts were predicting for 2001. A New York Times headline recently ran "The world's AIDS crisis is solvable" Look at Brazil. Brazil has done more than just provided treatment for their people; they have started a move in the third world towards dealing with the AIDS crisis. And they have done it by ignoring corporations patents and placing human need over corporate greed. This scares the hell our of greedy pharmaceutical corporations.

Brazil's system works. It is the system the world needs. And Brazil has offered to teach any third world country how to set up their own generic systems. In May at a generic AIDS drug conference in Burkina Faso, they may begin doing that. The tide is turning towards life for 30 million infected poor people, and the corporations are desperate to stop it.

The pharmaceutical corporations are bringing massive pressure to bear on the Brazilian government. Today, February 1, their lackeys in the United States government are formally denouncing Brazil's free AIDS drug program at a WTO meeting in Geneva. And their plan to destroy Brazil's program is to create new, more powerful and pro-corporate intellectual property laws in the upcoming Free Trade Agreement of the Americas.

If the US succeeds in placing stronger, pro-corporate intellectual property laws in the FTAA (called TRIPS-plus), Brazil's generics system will be dealt a death blow. The FTAA's corporate patent protection policies will force Brazil's generic drug program to stop manufacturing essential medications, extend corporate patent length and attack the generic drug system through the backdoor with a variety of crippling regulations. This spells disaster for people with AIDS in Brazil, but the larger picture is even more grim. The possibility of treating AIDS in the third world that Brazil offers will be gone --- and with it, a golden, practical opportunity for treating AIDS worldwide.

The FTAA has large-scale ramifications for 30 million people with AIDS in the third world that are simply deadly. Lets name the problem: Rich corporations are using the FTAA to kill millions, to ensure their profits continue.

This will not stand. People with AIDS and their allies, from Brazil to the US, are fighting this agreement. And we will win. ACT-UP and AIDS advocates worldwide are resisting the FTAA, specifically on the grounds that TRIPS-plus intellectual property provisions are unacceptable and deadly.

In the light of this deadly threat, we hope this information will help folks raise the AIDS disaster issue as part of their FTAA activism; right now, the movement isn't talking much about the suffering and genocide corporate greed and globalization are causing through the AIDS crisis in the developing world. But the issues gotta be on the table. 30 million people living with AIDS in the global south have their lives on the line here.

We plan to be in the US Trade Representatives face, we plan to be in Quebec City, and we plan to be everywhere it takes to defeat this death sentence for people with AIDS in the global south. We invite everyone who fights globalization and corporate power, and everyone who places human need above corporate greed, to join our demand and work together to defeat the FTAA.

Were specifically hoping that all anti-globalization activists will put the AIDS issue among the forefront of our movements opposition. 30 million people with AIDS in the third world should not be thought of a side-issue or footnote. We've come too far for that. AIDS and the global south are central to the suffering globalization causes; so they need to be central to our resistance as well.

Please feel free to contact us, with questions, comments, or requests for more information. We have a movement again. Lets use it to defend our world and our lives from corporate power. Lets put AIDS on the agenda. Lets defeat the FTAA and everything else the corporations and their lackeys try to impose on us from above.

Silence is death. Resistance is life.




ACT-UP Philadelphia

AMP Section Name:Trade Justice
  • 110 Trade Justice
  • 122 Pharmaceuticals
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