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Activists protest outside International AIDS Conference

Activists protest outside International AIDS Conference

About 1,000 AIDS activists protested outside the opening ceremony of the 15th International AIDS Conference in Bangkok, Thailand, on Sunday, chanting "Free medication for every nation" and "Access for all," the Bangkok Post reports. The activists also called for the end of free trade negotiations between Thailand and the United States, which they say will help protect the patents on brand-name antiretroviral drugs and keep anti-HIV treatments too expensive for poor HIV-positive people. Activists also heckled Thai prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra during his speech at the conference Sunday, holding up signs that said "Thai government drug policy = drop dead" and "No more lies" in protest of the government's crackdown on injection-drug users. Drugmaker GlaxoSmithKline's exhibition booth at the conference also was the scene of a protest by activists who claimed the company's prices on its antiretroviral drugs are too high and that AIDS sufferers in poverty are dying because they can't afford the company's medications. Protesters also said Glaxo's issuance of licenses to South African generic-drug companies to produce cheap versions of the company's anti-HIV medications have yet to result in the production of any generic drugs. Glaxo officials blame the delays in generic-drug production on lack of regulatory approval from the South African government.

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