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Asia

Indian AIDS patients tell government not to sign trade deal with EU

AIDS patients are up in arms against an EU-India free trade agreement. They say that certain provisions to protect European pharmaceuticals will force generics firms out of the market and jeopardize the poor's health.

Some 3,000 people turned up to protest against the deal

Some 3,000 people turned up to protest against the deal

After marching all day long, carrying banners reading "Don’t trade away our lives" and shouting "Down with the FTA" all day long, the 3,000 demonstrators in downtown New Delhi were tired and hoarse.

They were also angry and scared. They had come out en masse to speak out against a free trade agreement that is soon to be signed between India and the European Union.

Most of the generics used in the developing world are produced in India

Most of the generics used in the developing world are produced in India

They fear that clauses in the proposed trade deal will push prices of generic drugs made in India beyond the reach of HIV-positive people in India and the rest of the developing world.

NGOs say that the intellectual property provisions that the EU is calling for exceed what international trade rules require.

'Ultimately we will die'

"Ultimately we will die," said one of the demonstrators, Naresh Yadav, who is is HIV-positive. "The prices of drugs will be hiked up and the government won’t be able to provide free drugs. People will not be able to purchase drugs directly."

India is often called the "chemist of the poor" because this is where a large percentage of the world’s generics are produced.

Anand Grover, the UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Health, thought the trade deal's provisions to protect European pharmaceuticals companies would force generics companies out of the market. This will mean "costlier medicines in the future – not only for Indian patients but across the developing world."

The deal would have catastrophic consequences for AIDS patients in all developing countries

The deal would have catastrophic consequences for AIDS patients in all developing countries

He said it made no sense in terms of health or economically. The government will "actually be putting in roadblocks for competition against the Indian generics industry. It is committing harakiri. India will not grow unless Indian industry grows."

Just say 'no'

His stance is supported by NGOs such as Medicins Sans Frontieres that say the provisions will be catastrophic not only for AIDS patients but for people with tuberculosis or malaria, all over the developing world.

Paul Cawthorne from Medicins Sans Frontieres was at the demonstration to tell the Indian government: "It is your decision now and we’re asking you to say 'no'!"

"Don't trade away our lives," the protesters told their government in Delhi. It will soon become clear whether their calls were heard.

Author: Kai Küstner/act
Editor: Thomas Bärthlein

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