A brief history on HIV and access to medicines

For people living with HIV, the situation regarding getting access to anti-retroviral drugs (ARVs) has changed dramatically over the past 2 decades. In 2000, when the first International AIDS Conference was held on the continent most devastated by the epidemic, only 1000 people living with HIV in Africa had access to ARVs. ARVs were largely available only from originator companies that controlled the patents and ultimately the prices of these medicines, which were set at a hefty US$10,000 – 15000 per patient per year.

Civil society, grassroots AIDS activists and courageous leaders were critical to fighting the exclusivity of branded ARVs and enabling the flow of generic medicines into Africa. Now that generic ARVs are available in Africa for just a few hundred dollars or less per year, there are 18.2 million people living with HIV that have the treatment they need.

The fight for access to medicines has revealed the failures of the patent-driven model which currently dominates medical research and development (R&D). Patents give pharmaceutical companies a 20 year monopoly over a product and therefore the ability to charge whatever price they like. This leads to the decisions and priorities made by pharmaceutical companies being driven by profit rather than public health needs.

As a result, millions of people are missing the drugs they need because they are unaffordable or simply do not exist. To tackle this, STOPAIDS and international civil society have not stopped in demanding and urging governments, corporations and other stakeholders to ensure patients have access to the medicines they need

STOPAIDS’ work on access to medicines

STOPAIDS have historically been at the forefront of the global access to medicines movement based in the UK. We have campaigned and advocated;

  • To secure the G8’s landmark commitment to universal access to HIV services in Gleneagles in 2005
  • For the establishment of the Medicines Patent Pool (MPP) and the involvement of pharmaceutical companies in MPP agreements for ARVs
  • Against ‘TRIPS plus’ provisions in Free Trade Agreements that threaten access to medicines, including the definition of patentability criteria, patent term extensions, test data protection, that can delay the market entry of generics and increase the price of medicines.
  • For countries to use TRIPS flexibilities, such as compulsory licensing, freely and without undue pressure from industry or other countries.
  • For the establishment of the 3P Project, a R&D model that completely delinks the costs of R&D from the final price of the drug
  • For a global R&D agreement that sets and coordinate global R&D principles and priorities, leverages funding and encourages the use of alternative incentives for R&D.

In early 2017, the Youth Stop AIDS Missing Medicines campaign was shortlisted for BOND’s Campaign Award. Learn more about what the campaign achieved in this video below and visit the Missing Medicines website to find  out what we’re campaigning for next.