Executive Intelligence Review
Executive Intelligence Review, May 11, 2001 Internet Edition

Brazil Slams U.S. On AIDS Program,
Declares Health Care Universal Right

by Our Special Correspondent

Following an April 30 report issued by United States Trade Representative (USTR) Robert Zoellick, in which Brazil's patent law is attacked, Brazil's Health Minister called Zoellick a frontman for international pharmaceuticals, and said Brazil's successful anti-AIDS program will not be stopped. the Cardoso government made clear they are preparing for a showdown with the Bush administration over this issue.

Brazilian Health Minister Jose Serra issued a statement May 1, which states: the Brazilian AIDS program, acknowledged as one of the best in the world, exists "thanks to the determination of the Fernando Henrique Cardoso government to reduce the costs of medicines. And this determination will be maintained. There is no thought of any retreat by the government in this area. The U.S.A. is not accustomed to having Latin American countries, also, defend their interests." Serra said that "It is necessary to make clear that if any country in the Americas deserves to be called protectionist, it is the U.S.A." The USTR is not defending free trade, but the pharmaceutical industry, "which has a disproportionate weight in the Bush administration."

Brazil's patent law permits compulsory licensing [lifting patent protection] if patent holders either fail to produce those products within three years, or if they engage in abusive pricing policies.

The head of Brazil's AIDS program, Dr. Paulo Teixeira, in New York City to prepare for a June U.N. Special Assembly on AIDS, called a press conference to slam Zoellick for the April 30 report. The implied threat of trade action against Brazil "is a clear change in the attitude and the position of the American government," he said. "They say that there are some good AIDS program in the world, and they exclude Brazil from that, and we know why."

Dr. Teixeira has been leading an international campaign on behalf of the principle that all people and countries, no matter how poor, have a right to access to medical treatment and affordable medicines. At a April 8-11 World Health Organization and WTO "Workshop on Differential Pricing and Financing Drugs," Teixeira proposed an international agreement to protect national legislation allowing local production of strategic drugs in specific situations, such as the HIV/AIDS pandemic.

The U.S. opposes Brazil's policy of producing generic drugs to contain medicine costs; yet, Mr. Serra noted, the U.S. itself produces generics. "Brazil is not doing anything which the U.S. is not doing," he added.

'Full Power of U.S. Law' Threatened

"This administration will not hesitate to use the full power of U.S. and international law" to enforce adherence to free trade by Brazil, Robert Zoellick had threatened in releasing the so-called "301" report. The section on "Intellectual Property and Health Policy" is a frontal attack on Brazil's anti-AIDS program. The USTR is "informing countries" facing serious health emergencies, such as AIDS, that they need a "comprehensive approach.... [C]ountries need to stress education and prevention. The cost of drugs is but one of many important issues that must be addressed," it declares. "Some interested parties blame only the pharmaceutical companies," but the USTR, declared the U.S. is committed to a policy of assuring "financial incentives" for the pharmaceutical companies, and therefore declares it will actively defend their "intellectual property rights."

The USTR's suit wants Article 68 of Brazil's patent law abolished, or else, because it "is discriminating against all imported products in favor of locally produced products. In short, Article 68 is a protectionist measure intended to create jobs for Brazilian nationals."

But the U.S.' pushing of prevention, rather than treatment of AIDS, for Third World countries, is a lie used by the World Bank, et. al, to justify killing by cost-cutting. Dr. Teixeira reported recently, that when Brazil began its program of free distribution of anti-retroviral drugs, it was told it "could not afford to spend so much on infected people. It should concentrate its small resources on prevention of AIDS.... The poor countries, in the name of economic rationality, must consider their infected as lost causes." Brazil's program proved the best prevention around. Distributing the anti-retroviral medicines reduced the transmission rate of the virus; the number of people in Brazil with HIV/AIDS is half, in 2001, of what had been projected earlier in the 1990s; the death rate has fallen by about 50%; hospitalizations are down 75%.

Brazil Declares Human Right

A resolution declaring the universal human right to physical and mental health, voted up by all members of the UN Human Rights Commission, except the U.S., on April 12, was presented by Brazil. Not coincidentally, the U.S. has since been removed from the Commission for the first time since its 1947 formation, by a vote of its members May 1.

The right of everyone to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health is a human right, and, therefore, all states should promote "public health policies which promote broad access to safe, efficient and affordable preventive, curative or palliative pharmaceuticals and medical technologies," states the Resolution on "Access To Medication In The Context Of Pandemics Such As HIV/AIDS." It speaks to the issue of principle over which the battle over D.C. General Hospital in America's capital city, is being fought.

The resolution notes that the HIV/AIDS pandemic had claimed 21.8 million lives by the end of 2000, with over 36 million others infected. Then: "Emphasizing, in view of the increasing challenges presented by pandemics such as HIV/AIDS, the need for intensified efforts to ensure universal respect for and observance of human rights and fundamental freedoms for all, including by reducing vulnerability to pandemics such as HIV/AIDS...," the signers "recognize that access to medication...is one fundamental element to achieve progressively the full realization of the right of everyone to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health."

The resolution calls upon States to pursue policies which promote the "availability in sufficient quantities of pharmaceuticals and medical technologies used to treat pandemics such as HIV/AIDS," and ensure their "accessibility" and "affordability" for "all without discrimination, including [for] the most vulnerable sectors of the population ... including socially disadvantaged groups."

Furthermore, States should "refrain from taking measures which would deny or limit equal access for all persons" to these medicines and technologies, including in other countries, and "adopt all appropriate positive measures to the maximum of the resources allocated for this purpose so as to promote effective access to such preventive, curative or palliative pharmaceuticals or medical technologies."

By contrast, the contract signed by the District of Columbia Financial Control Board, handing over the capital city's public health system to a corrupt, private contractor, declares exactly the opposite. The fifth "Whereas" clause, on the very first page of the contract, declares that "this Agreement does not create an entitlement to health care in the recipients of health care services hereunder...."

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