Universal AIDS Treatment by 2010: Broken Promises and International Intellectual Property Policies

Author:Amelia Hirst
Position:J.D., The University of Iowa College of Law, 2012; B.A., Vassar College, 2004
Pages:227-250
Universal AIDS Treatment by 2010: Broken Promises and
International Intellectual Property Policies
Amy Hirst
I. INTRODUCTION ............................................................................... 227
II. THE AIDS CRISIS ........................................................................... 228
III. INTERNATIONAL INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY LAW .......................... 230
IV. INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY TRADE ALTERNATIVES ......................... 234
A. Parallel Importing ................................................................ 234
B. Tiered Pricing ....................................................................... 235
C. Bulk Procurement ................................................................ 236
D. Voluntary Donation .............................................................. 237
E. Post-Patent Generic Drugs .................................................... 238
F. Combining Alternatives ........................................................ 239
V. UNITED STATES' POLICIES AND PRACTICES ................................... 241
A. The United States and South Africa ..................................... 243
B. The United States and Brazil ................................................ 244
C. The United States and Argentina ......................................... 245
D. The United States and India ................................................. 247
E. The United States and Thailand .......................................... 248
VI. CONCLUSION .................................................................................. 249
I. INTRODUCTION
In 2009, approximately 1.3 million children un der the age of fifteen were
diagnosed with HIV in low- and middle-income countries, and fewer than
400,000 of those children were receiving antiretroviral therapy. 1 In almost a
quarter of African countries, at least 10 percent of children under the age of
eighteen have lost one or both parents to AIDS.2 In Sub-Saharan A frica, the
average life expectancy is only f ifty-two years, largely because of the AIDS
J.D., The University of Iowa College of Law, 2012; B.A., Vassar College, 2004.
1 Paediatric HIV Data and Statistics , WORLD HEALTH ORG., http://www.who.int/hiv/topics/
paediatric/data/en/index1.html (last visited May 18, 2012).
2 UNICEF, CHILDREN AND AIDS: THIRD STOCKTAKING REPORT, 2008, 21 (2008), available at
http://www.who.int/entity/hiv/pub/catsr_2008_en.pdf.
TRANSNATIONAL LAW & CONTEMPORARY PROBLEMS [Vol. 21:227
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epidemic.3 These n umbers persist desp ite the fact that scie ntists have
developed antiretroviral therapies over the past three decades that “can turn
AIDS from a death sentence into a chronic illness,” and these treatments
have been available since 2002. 4 Still the question re mains: given that
medicines are available, why did appr oximately two million people die of th e
disease in 2008,5 and why does the number of global deaths keep increasing?6
This Note will discuss how mode rn international intellectual property
regimes and practices have inte rfered with patient access to vit al medications
in places with the most desperate need. Part II of this Note will explain the
development of the global HIV/AIDS crisis and d iscuss the Millennium
Development Goals, which the United Nations (“U.N.”) propagated to combat
the situation. Part III will discuss so me of the intricacies of internat ional
patent law, including the development of the Agreement on Trade-Related
Aspects of Intellectual Prope rty Rights (“TRIPS”) in the World Trade
Organization (“WTO”) and the use of compulsory licensing to provide greater
access to patented medications in developing countries. In Part IV, this Note
will examine the United States’ policies to wards international intellectual
property law in relation to HIV/AIDS drug patents, highlighting sp ecific
instances involving South Africa, Brazil, A rgentina, India, and Thailand.
Part V will discuss various alternatives that co uld provide greater access to
medications without the use of compulsory licenses. Finally, Part VI will
conclude that use of compulsory lic enses is vital to combating th e global AIDS
crisis and that the United States must be more supportive of developing
nations’ use of compulsory licenses in combination with other methods if the
goal of global access to medications is to be achieved.
II. THE AIDS CRISIS
Since the discovery and classificatio n in 1981 of the disease that came to
be known as AIDS,7 more than twenty-five million people have died o f HIV
related causes.8 An estim ated thirty-five million people m ay be living with
AIDS today.9 The vast majority of these people live in Sub-Saharan Africa,
3 HIV and AIDS in Africa, AVERT, http://www.avert.org/hiv-aids-africa.htm (last visited May 18,
2012).
4 William J. Clinton, AIDS Is Not a Death Sentence, N.Y. TIMES, Dec. 1, 2002,
http://www.nytimes.com/2002/12/01/opinion/aids -is-not-a-death-sentence.html.
5 Global Epidemic Data and Statistics, WORLD HEALTH ORG., http://www.who.int/hiv/data/
global_data/en/index.html (last visited May 18, 2012) (proceed to tab 3).
6 Id. (proceed to tab 2).
7 The Global H IV/AIDS Timeline, KAISER FAMILY FOUND., http://www.kff.org/hivaids/timeline/
hivtimeline.cfm (last visited May 18, 2012).
8 Press Release, USAID, After 25 Million Deaths, Search Continues for HIV Vaccine (May 2010),
available at http://www.usaid.gov/pr ess/frontlines/fl_may10/p05_hiv100510.html.
9 Global HIV/AIDS Timeline, supra note 7.

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