Doctors Without Borders Petitions for Withdrawal of South African Suit, PMA Questions South Africa’s EffortsDoctors Without Borders on Friday launched an international petition urging 39 drug firms to drop their lawsuit against the South African government's 1997 law that would permit the importation and manufacture of cheaper anti-AIDS drugs (Agence France-Presse, 3/9). Campaign Coordinator Ellen 't Hoen said, "This case has struck a chord with people around the world because it exposes the lengths that the industry will go to protect its patents and profits, despite the immense human cost. There have been demonstrations from Pretoria to New York, from Copenhagen to Manila, demanding access to lifesaving medicines for South Africa. By signing this petition by April 15, individuals around the world can add their voices to the growing chorus of outrage" (Doctors Without Borders release, 3/8). A Doctors Without Borders statement said, "In the three years in which the companies have tied up this legislation in the courts, more than 400,000 South Africans have died of HIV/AIDS, almost all of whom lacked access to affordable treatments" (Agence France-Presse, 3/9).
PMA Speaks Up
The Pharmaceutical Manufacturers Association of South Africa, which has "thrown its weight" behind the drug companies' suit, on Thursday accused the South African government of "not taking AIDS seriously" and not offering commitment to the active treatment of HIV-positive patients. Mirryena Deeb, CEO of PMA, said at a news conference, "We battle to see the commitment shine through." The PMA also "drew attention" to South African President Thabo Mbeki's comments expressing doubt over the causal link between HIV and AIDS, which the association said "jeopardize[s] efforts to educate people about AIDS" (Deutsche Presse-Agentur, 3/8).