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HIV/AIDS sufferers protest trade deal

International agreement will make access to vital drugs 'more expensive'

Participants at the conference Participants at the conference
  • ucanews.com reporter, Ha Noi
  • Vietnam
  • January 11, 2012
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A national network of HIV/AIDS sufferers have attacked a possible trans-Pacific free trade agreement, claiming it will prevent patients from getting access to cheap generic  and antiretroviral drugs.

On the last day of their annual conference in Hanoi on January 9 some 312 representatives from the Vietnam Network of People Living with HIV/AIDS signed a petition urging the government to review or reject the agreement.

“If the trade agreement is approved, it will be disastrous for relief programs that depend on cheaper generic medications to treat poor patients, and will threaten to seriously hinder efforts to combat AIDS,” Do Dang Dong, coordinator of the network, told the conference.

Dong said he has also appealed to Ministry of Industry and Trade officials who are expected to iron out the agreement in March. These officials promised to give the petition to the U.S. and seven other Pacific countries involved in the agreement, he added.

He claimed US negotiators are seeking to impose restrictive intellectual property laws that would help American drug companies secure long-term monopolies overseas.

That would be good for corporate profits, but disastrous for relief programs.

Sister Marie Tran Thi Sang, who provides health care for 200 people with HIV/AIDS at a Church-run center in Hanoi, said she is deeply worried poverty-stricken patients will not be able to afford their own medicines after this year when NGOs stop providing free medication for patients.

“We will have to look for benefactors to provide free medicine for patients in the future,” she said.

Marie Nguyen Thi Don, an HIV patient and network member, said she has been getting free medicine from a US organization for four years, at a cost of 20 million dong (US$1,000). In future, she said, she will have to pay for the drugs which she simply can not afford to do.

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