By Dasha Ocheret, Europe NGO Delegation
For the NGO report of 2014 the NGO Delegation has chosen the topic of how intellectual property (IP) regulations impact the access to HIV treatment and what role the civil society plays in addressing IP barriers to essential treatment.
Choosing a topic for the NGO report is never an easy task. There are various emerging trends and critical issues, which the HIV community is focused on in different parts of the world. The presentation of the NGO report at a UNAIDS PCB session provides an excellent opportunity to draw high-level international attention to these issues and to call for accountability and action. So every year, the NGO Delegation faces a dilemma – how to choose a topic that would be relevant to all regions of the world, that would require urgent action at the global level,but remains low on the political agenda, unless the NGO Delegation addresses it through the NGO report.
The topic that we have chosen this year – intellectual property (IP) regulations and their impact on access to HIV treatment – qualifies all of these criteria.
The barriers created by IP directly affect the PLHIV community because the better and more recent drugs become unaffordable in most countries, with the result that individuals who develop resistance to the older first line regimens have no treatment options leading to greater morbidity and mortality, loss of productivity, and higher general health costs. Furthermore, the older drugs have greater side effects leading to poor adherence, more general health problems and in turn, also greater morbidity and mortality.
The history of treatment access in HIV shows quite clearly that it is civil society that has always been the initiator and the leader of the response. This is also true with IP issues. The key game-changing wins in Brazil, India, South Africa and Thailand were all a direct result of action by civil society. The fight to push back on TRIPS+ clauses currently under negotiation has come almost exclusively from civil society. Information on the cost impact of IP on the prices of medicines also comes mainly from civil society.
The NGO report of 2014 will cover both issues which IP regulation present today and highlight the role civil society plays to prevent decreasing access to high-quality HIV care. It will also provide strong recommendations for action of the global community. Provide your input to the report by sending your stories of successful IP advocacy and its challenges to [email protected] and participating in interviews organized by your regional representatives from the NGO Delegation (invitations will be sent in March).