50M People With AIDS Will Die Within Next Few Years Unless AIDS Drugs Are Made Available to All, Opinion Piece Says
In a matter of "days or months or at the most a few years," 50 million people with AIDS -- most of whom are poor, without health insurance and live in China, Africa, India and Russia -- will die, and it is "incumbent upon every manufacturer of every anti-HIV drug to contribute its patents or its drugs free for the salvation of these people," Larry Kramer, co-founder of Gay Men's Health Crisis and founder of the HIV/AIDS activist group ACT UP, writes in a New York Times opinion piece. The HIV-positive people who will die "do not have time to wait while we clean up their countries' water supplies and change their economic and educational systems, rain condoms on their communities, promote abstinence and teach them about the dangers of drug abuse," Kramer says, adding that there "simply is not enough time or money to make these noble and expensive suggestions doable." In addition, President Bush's proposed increase in HIV/AIDS funding to $15 billion over five years will not reach these HIV-positive people for at least two years and "is already bogged down in so much bureaucracy that in my estimation most of it will never see the light of day," Kramer says. But "[m]ost of all," Kramer writes, people with HIV/AIDS "do not have time for governments and drug companies to battle endlessly over patent rights and who can manufacture generic versions of life-saving drugs." Almost every HIV/AIDS drug on the market "has already more than paid for its development in spades, and also earned millions of dollars in additional profit for its makers," Kramer says, adding that "[it] is time to throw out the selfish notion that [drug] companies have the right not to share their patents. ... A new world prescription must be written immediately." HIV/AIDS "tells us about the worst of America and the world. It tells us that people don't care about others. It shows us over and over and over again that people can be allowed to die," Kramer concludes, adding, "It should break everyone's heart. Why doesn't it?" (Kramer, New York Times, 3/15).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.