amfAR, The Foundation for AIDS Research

From the Director

Could the Indian Pipeline Be Shut Down?

Trade Negotiations Threaten Supply of Low-Cost AIDS Drugs


March  2011—This year marks TREAT Asia’s tenth anniversary, a decade in which our network has worked to expand and improve HIV/AIDS treatment across the region. TREAT Asia’s launch in 2001 happened to coincide with the beginnings of generic antiretroviral (ARV) production, a development that has saved millions of lives around the world.

But the HIV/AIDS community faces a new threat. Trade negotiations now under way between India and the European Union could compromise ARV production in India, which manufactures almost 90 percent of all low-cost generic drugs for people with HIV. Without India, we have no ARV drug pipeline for the developing world. Without generic ARVs, we lose our most critical tool for treating the global epidemic.

But it is not necessary to completely shut down supply in order to cause significant harm. If Indian companies are not able to produce their drugs under this agreement, the result will be interrupted supply chains, stock-outs in clinics and pharmacies, lower drug purchasing power for donors, and the further suffering of people living with HIV.

This isn't just about trade laws but our commitment to save the lives of the poorest.

The government of India has issued assurances that the production of generic medications will be protected, but community networks of people living with HIV/AIDS, the World Health Organization, and UNAIDS are unconvinced. India is the main source of generic ARVs for the world. There is no way to meet global needs if production in India is compromised.

As Director of UNAIDS Michel Sidibé tells us in this issue of the TREAT Asia Report, “Countries should not trade away the public health of their people for other trade gains.” This isn’t just about trade laws but our commitment to save the lives of the poorest and most marginalized among us. We cannot turn away from that commitment.

Annette Sohn, M.D.