Across Argentina, Brazil, Colombia, Mexico and Peru 1.35 million people are living with HIV, and it is estimated that just over half are accessing HIV treatment.
Access to first-line antiretroviral drugs (ARVs) has been possible because the governments in these countries were able to produce generic versions. However, this is not the case for most of the second and third-line ARVs, which are under intellectual property protection in many countries.
Most countries in South America are classified as middle-income countries (MICs). This income classification means generally these countries do not benefit from reduced prices that companies may set in developing countries. They can also be excluded from licenses available through the Medicines Patent Pool, which allows cheaper generic versions to be manufactured.
When the World Trade Organization (WTO) TRIPS agreement was adopted, member states had to grant patents to pharmaceutical products, which has led to a huge increase in price of medicine, creating barriers to access essential drugs. South American countries are among the ones that have been providing access to ARVs for longest, and therefore need to offer newer lines of treatment as resistance develops to the older drugs. The increased price of newer medicines has raised concerns about the sustainability of access to medicines. A similar trend is evident with new medicines to treat Hepatitis C.
Our partner, RedLAM, aims to increase access to HIV and Hepatitis C treatment in Latin America through its lobbying activities. These activities are designed to keep the pressure on governments and pharmaceutical companies to remove barriers to essential medicines. The activities include: challenging patents filed when it believes there is no real innovation; urging governments to apply for compulsory licenses when essential medicines are overpriced; producing research and holding public consultations to raise awareness of the issues.
RedLAM has developed an online training course for activists so its members understand the legal tools at their disposal. To date, 190 activists from 16 countries have taken part in these training courses.