210: CRIMES OF THE BOURGEOISIE #6: Aids

“A warm welcome to the 210th Post of the Zingcreed blog. In this Christian/Atheist polemic I muse aloud about religion and life. I hope you get something out of it!” Peter Turner, M.A., M.Sc.

We all know that H.I.V./Aids can be a killer. What is not so obvious at first sight is that you’re more likely to die if you’re a poor African than if you’re a wealthy American, because you can’t afford the drugs.
The reason this appears in the Zingcreed Christian/Atheist blog is because we are looking at the words and deeds of Jesus, a 1st century peasant sage who healed the sick and preached that the poor would inherit the earth. When Aids first came to public attention, a devoutly Christian colleague of mine (a biology teacher) told me with a completely straight face that Aids was God’s punishment on homosexuals.
How christian the Christians are! Such love, such charity.
I dedicate this Post, not to her but to 2 close colleagues, Andy W. and Richard F. who both died of it.
These bullet points are not totally up to date. If anything, I’d guess the situation is probably worse today.

  • Drug prices depend on patent rules set by the WTO in 1995 (Trade Related aspects of Intellectual Property – TRIPs)
  • Result: while rich countries can afford them, over 35 million in the Global South can’t.
  • No ‘generics’ i.e. cheap copies may be made for 20 years or big Pharma might lose some profits.
  • The actual cost per annum to treat an Aids victim is $10, while what the companies actually charge is $15,000. Obviously totally denying access to treatment for the poor of the world.
  • Only intense lobbying by NGOs and the governments of “Less Developed Countries” as they are disparagingly called,brought concessions. The 2001 “WTO declaration on TRIPS and public health” allowed licensing of generics and parallel importing in cases of national emergency. The US was so outraged by this that it threatened retaliation  with the result that no nation has yet dared to grant a license.
  • The US took Brazil and South Africa to the WTO court to protect the interests of its pharmaceutical industries.
  • The only option for the “LDCs” is to use old generics that date from before the date they joined the WTO.

Related Zingcreed Post:
Crimes of the bourgeoisie #5: World Trade Organisation

Sources:
(i) Petrella, I. in Rowland C., ed. “Cambridge Companion to Liberation Theology” (?) p.281

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