NGO Delegate for Africa, Nadia Rafif, speaks to intellectual property issues in the MENA region.
Ten years after the Doha declaration, intellectual property rights continue to constitute a major barrier to access HIV treatment.
According to the last UNAID/WHO report, Middle East and North Africa has the lowest rate of coverage of treatment. Only 8% of people living with HIV in need of treatment receive it. When treatment is available, the choice of ARVs is limited, in comparison of other regions in the world, due to the prices of medicines. A zapper sit tu parles d’une perspective globale!
Like in many Middle Income Countries, the number of patent applications in our region increased significantly since the implementation of the TRIPS agreement. Even the new alternative solutions like the Medicines Patent Pools failed to address this issue as the first negotiated license excluded many of our countries as well as several middle income countries, included the ones from the MENA region.
While, TRIPS allow several flexibilities to protect public health and access to medicines, several countries did not take advantage on that in their national intellectual property laws that now include several TRIPS+ provisions like restrictions on compulsory licenses, ban of parallel imports, data exclusivity, patents on new use etc.
One of the reasons for this is that these laws had been formulated before the Doha Declaration in a very difficult international context, at a time when developed countries were pushing hard for a strict interpretation of TRIPS.
Many countries have been supported to set up these laws through an oriented technical assistance from developed countries defending a pro-industry rather than a public health agenda.
Furthermore, many developing countries have signed bilateral free trade agreements largely recognized to undermine access to essential medicines.
While we know today the benefits of treatment not only on the quality of life of PLWIH but also in reduction of new infections. And in order to reach our Zero targets and the commitment made to treat 15 millions people by 2015; it becomes important:
1- Acknowledge the add value of civil society on this issue, built their capacities and finance it in order to play their advocacy role
2- that countries review their national intellectual property laws to make sure they include all TRIPS flexibilities,
3- that countries fully use these flexibilities on a daily basis,
4- that developed countries stop their pressure on developing countries using these flexibilities; and through bilateral trade agreements like it is the case now with India,
5- that already signed Free Trade Agreements be re-negotiated to remove all provisions that undermine access to life saving medicines,
6- that new solutions like the Medicine Patent Pool benefit to all developing countries and do not exclude Middle income countries where patents effects are the more important,
7- that the failure and the limits of the TRIPS agreement be recognized and a broader discussion be opened on implications of intellectual property rights and access to essential medicines.
We strongly recommend the Recommendation 4 and 7 from our civil society report = to know your rights /law on access to justice and asked for more resources to scale up and ensure the strengthening of legal literacy programs.
We thank the Commissioners on the Global Commision on HIV and the Law for their work and look forward their recommendations in February. We also ask the PCB members states, civil society and Cosponsors to report once a biennium on progress in implementing the findings and recommendation of HIV and the Law.