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Policy and Institutional Frameworks

Global Governance of HIV/AIDS

The World Trade Organization's Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS), and the mandate of the World Health Organization to promote "universal access to essential medicines" present often irreconcilable challenges. Global governance orthodoxies, at the tripartite levels of academic scholarship, national and international public policy, and civil society activism, underpin the complexities of the irreconcilable tension(s) between human rights, public health, and pharmaceutical patents in the global interdependence of nations and peoples.

Global policy questions surrounding HIV/AIDS and access to anti-retroviral ("ARV") drugs, especially in developing countries, and the globalization of intellectual property rights by the WTO have exacerbated these tensions. Sandwiched between legal and policy issues on access to ARV treatment for HIV/AIDS, and intellectual property rights, are the age-old human rights norms recognized by customary and treaty international law. In what has since become a "right to life versus corporate profit" debate; TRIPS has firmly pitched corporate profit against the world's vulnerable populations who live with HIV/AIDS, the human right to life against intellectual property rights, and civil society groups against transnational pharmaceutical corporations.

This project seeks to achieve two major objectives. First, it strives to generate a holistic and informed understanding of the impact of patents and the TRIPS Agreement on access to drugs for the treatment of HIV/AIDS. Second, the project aims to build the capacity of developing countries to effectively strike a balance between their WTO obligations under the TRIPS agreement, and their obligation to promote access to essential medicines under the WHO Constitution.

In this endeavour, some kind of South-South cooperation is envisaged whereby the poorer developing countries could replicate the models of countries like Brazil and India to harmonize their TRIPS-health obligations, and if the capacity exists, develop an AIDS policy that will include production of generic anti-retroviral drugs in ways that do not violate the TRIPS Agreement. Uganda has recently launched a national facility for production of generic ARVs based on agreement with an Indian drug firm, while Nigeria imports the bulk of its ARVs from India.


Page last modified 2019.04.16.

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