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U.S. AIDS activists protest over HIV treatment plans in Brazil

U.S. AIDS activists protest over HIV treatment plans in Brazil

Members of ACT UP, the Student Global AIDS Campaign, Health GAP, and the Global AIDS Alliance on Friday protested outside the Brazilian embassy in Washington, D.C., and the Brazilian Mission to the United Nations in New York City to urge Brazilian health officials to keep their promise to increase access to anti-HIV drugs by breaking patents on key antiretroviral medicines. The protesters delivered a "spine" to the Brazilian authorities at both rally locations to urge them to have the backbone to stick with announced plans to break the patents on the anti-HIV drugs and make cheaper, generic copies to treat the nation's HIV-positive residents. "Brazil has let itself be bullied by big drug companies long enough," said Paul Zeitz, executive director of Global AIDS Alliance. "It's time for Brazil to stand up to them and show the world the kind of global leadership this issue so desperately needs." On March 15, Brazil announced its intent to issue compulsory licenses for four high-priced, patented anti-HIV medicines if drug companies did not negotiate voluntary licensing agreements for the drugs after one month. The deadline passed with no announcement from Brazil. The cost of these four drugs alone is 80% of the Brazilian AIDS budget, say AIDS activists, which would threaten the sustainability of their universal-access program. Brazil's National AIDS Program has been internationally lauded for its universal HIV treatment access and prevention campaigns. "The success of the Brazilian AIDS treatment program has been made possible by the local production of generic medicines," says Sean Barry of Health GAP in a press release. "This policy has brought down the price of raw materials for antiretroviral medications internationally. The health ministry must stand up to pharmaceutical companies--not only for the Brazilian people but for people living with AIDS around the world."

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