Thursday, January 05, 2006

CAFTA Threatens AIDS Victims in Guatemala

Guatemala has more AIDS orphans than any other Central American nation, a problem that the government has been slow to acknowledge.

Experts say that the country has reached a critical juncture in the HIV epidemic. Recently Guatemala was granted $8.4 million from the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tiberculosis and Malaria, most of which will be used to provide medicines to those infected.

But provisions of the CAFTA agreement will significantly limit the effect of this money by giving American pharmaceutical companies a five year period of exclusivity for new drugs. Guatemala will no longer be able to import affordable, geneeric AIDS drugs to meet the growing need.

Rachel Cohen, from Doctors Without Borders, calls the efforts to bring in affordable medicine "absolutely critical" because patients often develop resistance to the more commonly used brands;

If those numbers in Guatemala were to rise from 13,000 to 20,000, 30,000, 50,000, it's going to be impossible for Guatemala to contemplate the sort of national response that would be necessary.

The AIDS problem brings into sharp focus the heartless, bottom line mentality of "free trade" agreements and the suffering they bring upon the poor and the powerless.


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