Africa: Key Actions on Treatment Access, 02/10/03

Africa: Key Actions on Treatment Access, 02/10/03

AFRICA ACTION Africa Policy E-Journal February 10, 2003 (030210)

Africa: Key Actions on Treatment Access (Reposted from sources cited below)

This posting contains an urgent sign-on letter and other current information about affordable antiretroviral treatment to save the lives of people living with AIDS. Both the South African and U.S. governments have now, after much resistance, recognized the need for such treatment. But there is still an enormous gap between that verbal recognition and saving lives now.

On February 14, in South Africa, the Treatment Action Campaign (TAC) and numerous allied organizations are holding a march coinciding with the opening of parliament to demand government action. They are asking for organizational endorsements. Africa Action has endorsed the letter below. We urge other organizations to read the letter and the cover note from Artists from a New South Africa, and send in your own organizational endorsement. If you do not represent an organization, please pass it on to an organization you know that might endorse it.

One of the earliest responses, also included below, is an open letter to President Thabo Mbeki from the Kebbi Alliance of Positive People in Kebbi, northern Nigeria.

In the international trade arena, rich countries led by the United States are still trying to restrict the rights of countries to import generic medicines. While President Bush acknowledged the need for affordable generic medicines in his State of the Union message, his "emergency plan" would not actually provide any drugs until 2004 at the earliest. Meanwhile, multilateral negotiations on this issue are stalled. The U.S. is intransigent, while other rich countries are seeking compromise language that would also backtrack on the "Doha declaration" of 2001 giving primacy to health over patents. Press reports say that pharmaceutical companies forced U.S. trade negotiators to take an even harder line than that recommended by the U.S. trade representative himself (see New York Times, Feb. 8, 2003).

This week, the World Trade Organization (WTO) is continuing to discuss this issue in Geneva. On Saturday, Feb. 8, in a protest endorsed by Africa Action, local members of the Student Global AIDS Campaign in Washington staged a "die-in" at the offices of the United States Trade Representative in protest against the U.S. position, continuing with a march to the offices of the pharmaceutical companies' trade association. Also on Saturday, Medecins sans Frontieres issued an open letter to the WTO warning that proposed "compromise" language could seriously undermine previous agreements on the right to health. Brief excerpts from this letter are also included below; the full letter is available on

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Please send organizational endorsements by February 12, 2003, to:

For more information: Deborah Baron, Program Coordinator Artists for a New South Africa 2999 Overland Avenue Suite 102 Los Angeles, CA 90064 (310) 204-1748/tel; (310) 204-4277;

Dear Friends,

We are writing to ask your organization to sign a letter and take action in support of a major South African mobilization effort to help save the lives of millions of South African people living with HIV/AIDS. Please forward this request for endorsements and action to any organizations you know that might be interested in participating.

On February 14, South Africa's Treatment Action Campaign (TAC) is organizing a "Stand Up For Our Lives" march in Cape Town. South African AIDS activists are calling on their government to sign and implement a comprehensive prevention, care, and treatment plan, the outline of which has already been negotiated between the government and labor, business, religious, activist and NGO organizations. They've requested support from international allies, and have asked that actions be undertaken in a firm but friendly manner.

Please read the following letter and send authorization to list your organization no later than February 12, 2003, to: The names of the people to whom letters will be sent, and their contact information, are listed below, after the endorsement form. There is further background about TAC and this action at the end of this email.


1) Sign on to the organizational letter of support; see form below.

2) Send your own letter to South African officials and consulates.

3) If you are close to Chicago, Los Angeles, Washington, DC, or New York City, try to meet with consulate or embassy officials. 4) Write letters to the editors of local and major newspapers.

Go to for:

+ updates on solidarity vigils in the U.S. and how to organize your own vigil

+ information on where to send letters and requests for meetings with consulate officials in the US.

+ sample letters to the editors + sample short letters to consulates

+ template of press release for vigils and consulate meetings

+ letter seeking international solidarity from TAC

Be sure to notify TAC of the actions you are taking and send them copies of letters and press releases to: And keep up with TAC's campaign at:

Please stand with TAC and all South African people living with or affected by HIV/AIDS.

In solidarity,

HealthGAP and Artists for a New South Africa



We, the undersigned organizations, are deeply concerned about South Africa's HIV/AIDS crisis.

South Africa has been a source of hope to the world, as your nation triumphed over apartheid, established a new democracy, adopted the world's most inclusive Bill of Rights and underwent a precedent-setting process of truth and reconciliation. As the country at the very epicenter of the global AIDS pandemic, with the largest number of people living with HIV/AIDS and one of the fastest growing infection rates, it is essential that South Africa again demonstrate bold and decisive leadership. We implore the South African government to act now by introducing a treatment plan that aims to save the lives of South African people already infected with HIV.

We join the Treatment Action Campaign (TAC), the Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU), the South African Medical Association (SAMA), and numerous other South African organizations, in calling on the South African government to implement a national HIV/AIDS prevention and treatment plan.

We endorse TAC's "Stand Up For Our Lives" march in Cape Town on February 14, 2003, which will coincide with the opening of Parliament by President Thabo Mbeki. We stand in solidarity with the thousands of people who will march for their right to healthcare and treatment. We ask the South African government to turn this march into a celebration of life by announcing a National HIV/AIDS Prevention and Treatment Plan that includes a clear commitment to providing anti-retroviral therapy as a fundamental part of care and treatment for all South Africans living with HIV/AIDS who need it.

We recognize the challenges inherent in such an effort. We urge South Africa to exercise every available policy tool to ensure affordable and sustainable supplies of generic anti-retroviral medicines, including issuing compulsory licenses on patented AIDS drugs and beginning local production of anti-retrovirals. As Americans, we will continue to demand that our own government stops reneging on the commitment it made to the World Trade Organization (WTO) in November, 2001 when it, along with all the other WTO Member States, adopted the WTO Ministerial Declaration on the Agreement on Trade-related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) and Public Health. We will also continue to demand that the United States contribute its fair share of the funds needed to combat the global AIDS pandemic effectively.

We welcome President Bush's pledge for increased unilateral funding for international HIV/AIDS prevention and treatment and will work to make sure that these promises are kept, that bilateral programs coordinate with recipient prevention, care, and treatment plans, and that the bulk of the money be channeled through the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria. This will help ensure that unfair conditions are not placed on developing countries and that bureaucracy, duplication, and delays are minimized.

Finally, we would like to respectfully inform you that if the government fails to sign and implement a National HIV/AIDS Prevention and Treatment Plan by the end of February 2003, we will fully support TAC and their allies in their decision to pursue a national campaign of non-violent civil disobedience. Using civil disobedience to call for access to medicines should be unnecessary and is avoidable. The world is waiting for South Africa's leadership in confronting this epidemic and implementing a program to deliver care, support, and medicines to those most in need. We believe that unity amongst activists, trade unions, business, and government is possible. We again urge the South African government to act now.





Organization Name:

City where organization is headquartered:

State where organization is headquartered:


Name of person authorizing listing:

Title / Affiliation with endorsing org:







If you or your organization would like to write your own letter in support of TAC, please write to your local consulate as well as to the following people before February 14, 2003:

The Honorable JG Zuma Deputy President: Via Fax: 011-27-12-323-3114 E-mail:

The Honorable Dr NC Dlamini-Zuma Minister of Foreign Affairs: Via Fax: 011-27-12-351-0253 E-mail:

Ms Lakela Kaunda Chief Director: Communication and Spokesperson Via E-mail:

Deputy Chief of Mission Professor Thandabantu Nhlapo South African Embassy Via Fax: 202-265-1607

Consul General Thami Ngwevela South African Consulate General - New York Via Fax: 212-213-0102

Consul General Glaudine Mtshali South African Consulate General - Los Angeles Via Fax: 323-651-5969

Consul General Pat Sonjani South African Consulate General - Chicago Via Fax: 312-939-2588

Please CC a copy of any letters you send to TAC via E-mail at:



TAC and their allies are mounting this march in a firm but friendly spirit. For more than four years TAC has appealed to government, negotiated, marched, held interfaith services, supported the government in court against drug companies and even litigated against it to ensure a national mother-to-child HIV prevention program. Last year, they agreed with South Africa's Deputy President to hold off on their planned civil disobedience campaign until the end of February, 2003. TAC is hoping the government will act now and enable this march to become a celebration. However given the urgency of the AIDS crisis, if the government doesn't act by then, TAC will begin a non-violent civil disobedience campaign.

TAC is joined in this march by numerous South African groups including Access, AIDS Consortium, AIDS Law Project, Archbishop of Cape Town and Metropolitan of the Anglican Church in Southern Africa, ATTN SA, CARE, Children's Rights Centre, Combined AIDS Ministry, COSATU, Durban Lesbian and Gay Community Centre, FAWU, FEDUSA, Habonim, HOPSERSA, Jubilee 2000, Kagiso Anglican YCW, Positive Muslims, Positive Wits - HIV/AIDS Campaign, RAPCAN, SA Academy of Family Practice, SACTWU, South African Medical Association, SAMWU, SOHACA, Southern African Catholic Bishops Conference AIDS Office, The Caring Network, The Southern African HIV Clinicians Society, Themba HIV/AIDS Project, Triangle Project, WC-NACOSA, Western Cape Council of Churches, Wits HIV/AIDS Education and Support Project, Wits Perinatal HIV Research Unit, Women on Farms Project and many others. They are marching to support their sisters, brothers, children, parents, families, colleagues and communities.


Open Letter posted in Nigeria-AIDS eForum

The Nigeria-AIDS eForum is a project of Journalists Against AIDS (JAAIDS) Nigeria.

For further information, visit our website:

Dear President Mbeki,

It saddens our heart that you have still not decided to let your people live. We who write this letter love you so much and you are a hero to us.

We are a small group of People Living With AIDS who would all have died a long time ago but our President, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo gave us anti-retrovirals and we are all living our normal lives. The medicines do a great wonder in the fight against AIDS. Like our friend Mr. Nasko; he was carried on a stretcher into the doctors office and given these medicines; yesterday he took the stairs two at a time and came to visit us. He had returned to his job as small time trader. So also Mr. Ambursa, he was taken for dead and wheeled into the doctors office, just six months after, he too is back at his job.

The medicines are so easy to take and have no side effects that have made any of us uncomfortable whatsoever.

About two hundred of us here in this poor, illiterate North of Nigeria are taking these medicines very easily. Just three in the morning and three in the evening. They are subsidized for us and we all can afford the 10 dollars every month that we are required to pay. Families have been re-united, even Lami and Rueben have got married. Lami wrote her will a few months before getting the medicines.

You are a good man, President Mbeki, just save the lives of your people and be the 'Best Man'

Our best regards.

Samaila Garba Kebbi Alliance Of Positive People (KAPOP) Birnin-Kebbi Kebbi State, Nigeria Email:


Open Letter to the Members of the WTO from Medecins Sans Frontieres Paris, 8 February 2003

For more information contact: Ellen 't Hoen: + 33 6 22375871 Christopher Garrison: + 44 7720470622 Rachel M. Cohen +1-212-655-3762 E-mail:

Dear Sir, Madam,

On Monday the Chair of the TRIPS Council is expected to propose to the WTO General Council to adopt the "Motta December 16 text" and to make the following statement:

"Before proposing the adoption of the text of 16 December 2002, I would like to put on record a number of understandings which have emerged from the discussions leading up to the formulation of this text.

The first is that all delegations have reconfirmed their commitment to the provisions of the Doha Declaration on the TRIPS Agreement and Public Health and to the need to respect fully its provisions.

Secondly, delegations have made it clear that they see the system that we are establishing under paragraph 6 of that Declaration as being essentially designed to address national emergencies or other circumstances of extreme urgency.

Third, delegations have recognized the need to avoid undermining the importance of intellectual property protection for the development of new medicines and have also reaffirmed that the TRIPS Agreement does not and should not prevent Members from taking measures to protect public health.

Having put on record these understandings, I would propose the adoption of the draft decision contained in ..."

We urgently call upon the WTO Members to reject this statement for the following reasons:

1. Paragraph 6 was never meant to only address national emergencies or other circumstances of extreme urgency, whether "essentially" or otherwise. The objective of paragraph 6 was to ensure that countries without production capacity could make effective use of compulsory licensing which is a key TRIPS safeguard. Anyone who claims otherwise is re-writing the history of the Doha negotiations. ...

2. The adoption of this text would mean that countries without the possibility to produce medicines are at a major disadvantage over countries that do have the capacity. ...

The Doha declaration confirms the right of countries to issue compulsory licenses in paragraph 5 (b): Each Member has the right to grant compulsory licences and the freedom to determine the grounds upon which such licences are granted. ..

The proposed Chairman's statement would entrench a system with "Second class" Members whose possibilities to exercise their rights under the TRIPS Agreement and the Doha declaration will be limited compared to countries that have the capacity to produce. It needs no mention that it will be the people in the most disadvantaged countries who will suffer disproportionably from this. ,,,

In effect these two different classes of Members will be constituted as follows:

First class Members with manufacturing capacity will be able to use compulsory licensing to address whichever public health problems they have identified.

Second class Members without manufacturing capacity will be able to use compulsory licensing to address public health problems only in case of a national emergency or other circumstances of extreme urgency. In theory, they can issue a compulsory licence to address any public health problem; in practice they can only get supplies of the medicines they need under a compulsory licence in an emergency situation. ...

In conclusion an agreement to this text would be a disastrous final chapter in the 2 year old history of the Doha declaration on TRIPS and Public Health.

If Members agree to this text it will no longer be possible to maintain that the TRIPS "Agreement can and should be interpreted and implemented in a manner supportive of WTO Members' right to protect public health and, in particular, to promote access to medicines for all." This was the main objective and achievement of the Doha process which the Chair's statement will undo.

We therefore propose that the Members of the WTO take into consideration the following alternative wording for the Chair's statement:

Delegations have made it clear that they see the system that is being established under this proposed solution as being designed to promote access to effective treatments to address public health problems afflicting countries with insufficient or no manufacturing capacities in the pharmaceutical sector as called for in paragraph 6 of the Doha Declaration on the TRlPS Agreement and Public Health.

Regardless of any accompanying statement, Chairman Motta's 16th December text is a compromise that is far from ideal because it fails the test of being simple, workable and economically viable. It falls far short of what the World Health Organization's proposal of 17 September 2002 could have delivered or still could deliver. We maintain our position that it is not too late to reject the proposals and explore alternative ways to achieve what the Doha declaration set out to do: access to medicines for all.

Sincerely Yours,

Ellen 't Hoen MSF Campaign for Access to Essential Medicines


Message-Id: <> From: "Africa Action" <> Date: Mon, 10 Feb 2003 11:14:49 -0500 Subject: Africa: Key Actions on Treatment Access

Editor: Ali B. Ali-Dinar

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