Advocacy Groups, Religious Leaders Release Statement on South African Patent Trial
Following the commencement of the trial over South Africa's Medicines and Related Substances Act, the Africa Policy Information Center, the American Committee on Africa and the Africa Fund have released a joint statement signed by a large number of religious groups, lawmakers and social organizations condemning the lawsuit. Calling the suit "morally reprehensible and legally flawed," the groups urged the U.S. government to "provide clear support to the South African people and their government in their efforts to fight the AIDS epidemic." The letter was signed by individuals representing a variety of religious groups, including the Rev. Jesse Jackson, Pernessa Seele of Balm in Gilead and members of the United Methodist Church, the United States Catholic Conference and the Mosque of Islamic Brotherhood. Several lawmakers from Oregon, New York, Wisconsin, North Carolina and Louisiana also signed the petition, as did members of the International Youth and Students Movement for the United Nations, the Lend a Hand Society, the Student Global AIDS Campaign, Americans Mobilized Against the Spread of AIDS in Africa, the International Gay & Lesbian Human Rights Commission and the New York Central Labor Council of the AFL-CIO (APIC Web site, 3/5).
U.S. Should Take a 'Strong Position' on the Issue
William Minter, senior research fellow at the Africa Policy Information Center, said that the Bush administration needs to take a "strong position" on the issue and support the South African government in both the lawsuits and in its efforts to procure cheaper anti-AIDS medicines. "A strong statement on the issue would have a very significant effect," Minter said, adding that the president, Secretary of State Colin Powell and the U.S. Trade Representative Office should all voice their opposition to the companies' lawsuit. However, Minter expressed hesitation over whether Bush would oppose the companies, given the recent complaint filed by U.S. trade representatives over Brazil's manufacturing of generic drugs. Still, Minter maintained that the Bush administration should come out in support of the South African government and actively oppose the lawsuit. "They should put whatever pressure they can to say patents are secondary to human life," he concluded (Meredith McGroarty, Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 3/6).