New York Times: France Prods U.N. To Help the Poor Get
January 16, 2000
Issue in Depth
The AIDS Epidemic
By BARBARA CROSSETTE
NITED NATIONS, Jan. 14 -- As more international attention
focuses on an AIDS epidemic spreading out of control, France is
prodding the United Nations to find ways to make cheaper drugs
available to poor countries, where treatment is beyond the means of most
people who need it.
The Clinton administration also supports the cause championed by
France. But officials and AIDS experts contend that drug companies
have been resistant to pleas that they alter their pricing policies or donate
medicines to poor countries.
Alain Dejammet, France's representative at the United Nations,
proposed during an all-day Security Council meeting on the AIDS crisis
in Africa last Monday that a three-way conference be convened to bring
together rich nations, their pharmaceutical companies and representatives
of poorer countries in desperate need of affordable medicines.
Mr. Dejammet said the interests of pharmaceutical companies, which fear
the erosion of their patents on drugs developed at enormous costs in
research and testing, would have to be taken into account.
He said that for this reason, France was proposing that the companies
and countries involved in both buying and selling drugs get together to
discuss how to avoid more confrontations over intellectual property
He said in an interview Thursday that given the huge numbers of AIDS
cases in the developing world, treatment should not be forgotten in the
rush to support prevention efforts -- many of them more educational than
medical -- and the development of an AIDS vaccine. The 21 countries
with the world's highest H.I.V. infection rates are all in Africa, and these
nations are also among the world's poorest.
Vice President Al Gore, speaking at the same council session on
Monday, also raised the question of how to make medicines more readily
available, an issue President Clinton had addressed at the contentious
World Trade Organization meeting in Seattle in December.
"We are also committed to helping poor countries gain access to
affordable medicines, including those for H.I.V./AIDS," Mr. Gore told
the Security Council. "Last month, the president announced a new
approach to ensure that we take public health crises into account when
applying U.S. trade policy. We will cooperate with our trading partners
to assure that U.S. trade policies do not hinder the efforts to respond to
Mr. Gore said the United States would add $150 million to next year's
budget for fighting AIDS. A third of that amount would go to the Global
Alliance for Vaccines and Immunizations, which sponsors medical
research and works on the distribution of drugs to the third world. In
total, the Clinton administration is seeking to make $325 million available
for the American contribution to the worldwide campaign against AIDS.
Mr. Gore learned last year how complicated efforts to aid poorer nations
can be when negotiations with pharmaceutical companies are involved.
He drew protesters to his campaign rallies after he presented the position
of American drug companies in talks with South Africa.
The talks concerned a 1997 South African law that allowed imports of
cheaper, but unlicensed, copies of American drugs for AIDS and opened
the way for South African manufacturers to produce generic versions of
Forty pharmaceutical companies responded by first lobbying the South
Africans and then filing a lawsuit. The suit was suspended in September
when South Africa said that the law would be re-examined.