Acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS) was first recognized in the United States in 1981. The Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) was identified soon after in 1983. By the mid-1980’s, the disease was recognized as an international epidemic which had spread throughout most of the world. Millions have lost their lives since.
This year, new science demonstrated that treatment can also be effective as HIV prevention. For the first time it is becoming possible to model an end to the epidemic. Activists’ calls for an AIDS-free generation have been echoed worldwide.
But ending AIDS will depend in part on massively scaling up access to treatment. A major obstacle is the monopoly power of the giant pharmaceutical companies.
In 2000, basic HIV treatment cost up to $15,000 per person, per year (ppy). In developing countries, treatment was out of reach for all but the very wealthy, and HIV was a death sentence.
Then, activists working together across borders and increasing availability of generic medicines facilitated a treatment revolution, eventually driving basic HIV medicine prices to under $150 ppy – a 99% cost reduction. Today, antiretroviral (ARV) medicines provide eight million people in low- and middle-income countries with long term hope for a healthy and long living future.
But millions more still await access, and lifelong AIDS treatment requires access to newer and more potent drug regimens, due to drug resistance.
Unfortunately, most newer ARVs are under the monopoly control of multinational pharmaceutical companies. The high treatment costs for these medicines threaten to block the remarkable progress already achieved and impede the goal of “getting to zero.”
To continue the treatment revolution and seek an end to AIDS, we need competition and access not only for off-patent ARVs but also for the patent-protected and very expensive second- and third-line ARVs. Public Citizen’s Global Access to Medicines Program is working with partners in more than one dozen countries to challenge Big Pharma’s monopoly abuses and realize this vision.
We are also fighting to protect access to medicines in the proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), a free trade agreement under negotiation now between the United States and countries in Latin America and Asia. The Office of the United States Trade Representative (USTR) has advanced a Big Pharma wish list that would lengthen, strengthen and broaden pharmaceutical monopolies throughout the region. We are inspiring governments and health advocates fight back.
We envision a very different Asia-Pacific region partnership–one that advances pharmaceutical access and innovation simultaneously. We believe better public policy is possible. We firmly hold to the promise of an “AIDS-free generation”. Getting there requires standing up to Big Pharma, promoting competition, and expanding access to medicines.
That’s why, this Tuesday Public Citizen’s Global Access to Medicines Program will join the We Can End AIDS March and ask for “accountability from Big Pharma and government officials around the world”.
We need your support to create a future free of AIDS. Please join us on Tuesday and let’s raise our voices against Big Pharma.