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Trade deal will make vital HIV/AIDS medicines disastrously expensive

Hanoi (UCAN): The Vietnam Network of People Living with HIV/AIDS has attacked a possible trans-Pacific free trade agreement, claiming it will hamper access to cheap generic and antiretroviral drugs.

On the last day of its annual conference in Hanoi on January 9, some 312 representatives from the network signed a petition urging the government to review or reject the agreement.

Do Dang Dong, coordinator of the network, told the conference, “If the trade agreement is approved, it will be disastrous for relief programmes that depend on cheaper generic medications to treat poor patients, and will threaten to seriously hinder efforts to combat AIDS.” 

He said he has also appealed to Ministry of Industry and Trade officials who are expected to iron out the agreement in March and added that they promised to give the petition to the United States of America (US) and seven other Pacific countries involved in the agreement.

He claimed the US negotiators are seeking to impose restrictive intellectual property laws that would help American drug companies secure long-term overseas monopolies. That would be good for corporate profits, but disastrous for relief programmes.

Sister Marie Tran Thi Sang, who provides health care for 200 people with HIV/AIDS at a Church-run centre in Hanoi, expressed deep concern that poverty-stricken patients would not be able to afford their own medicines after this year when non-government agencies stop providing free medication.

“We will have to look for benefactors to provide free medicine for patients in the future,” she said.

Marie Nguyen Thi Don, an HIV patient and network member, who has been receiving free medicine from a US organisation for four years at a cost of 20 million dong ($7,387), said she simply cannot afford to pay for the drugs.

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