Community lecture brings assistance to the forefront

On Sept. 27 a Community Lecture Series on AIDS/HIV held a lecture entitled “Frontline South Africa: Treatment Access on Trial”, which stressed the importance of pharmaceutical companies to provide essential medicines to people with AIDS in South Africa.
The Community Lecture Series was put on by the Lecture Series Project, director Thomas Waugh and was sponsored by various companies including the dean of students office.
“We cannot save people because the pharmaceutical companies refuse to sell the patents for the medicines to companies in South Africa,” said Mark Heywood who is the head of the AIDS Law Project and is also the National Secretary of the Treatment Action Campaign (TAC).
Major pharmaceutical companies have been refusing to provide antibiotics for more than 24 million people with HIV and AIDS in South Africa because they would be losing property rights by letting local drug companies in South Africa create the medicines.
“The pharmaceutical companies are abusing their rights to patents, which set the prices for medicines, for people that cannot afford them,” explained Heywood.
Even after the Medicine and Related Substance Control Amendment Act was passed in May of 1997 in South Africa, pharmaceutical companies still managed to block the implementation of the act until April 2000.
“Because these companies are refusing [to give] medicine, they are speeding up the HIV epidemic,” said Heywood. In March of this year, the TAC managed to stop the pharmaceutical companies from blocking the act, but the companies are still fighting it.
Another issue that is plaguing the massive amount of sufferers is the role of the South African government. As the epidemic was increasing between 1992 to 1994, the South African government was in the process of political change. This resulted in the politicians giving the AIDS crisis less of a priority.
“The AIDS epidemic is now so visibly a problem that the new democratic president cannot ignore it,” said Heywood.

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