Health before profit! The world must learn lessons of HIV/AIDS response
The global response to the Covid-19 pandemic has replicated the tragic mistakes of the HIV/AIDS epidemic, dividing the world between those who can access vaccines and treatments, and those who cannot.
Today the European Parliament will hold a debate on “Accelerating progress and tackling inequalities towards ending AIDS as a public health threat by 2030”.
The human right to health should always take precedence over rules on Trade-Related aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS). This is enshrined in the Doha Declaration and thanks to the mobilisation of activists globally, HIV/AIDS treatments’ costs dropped from nearly $10.000 to less than $100, making them accessible to millions of people.
These steps forward came with great costs: since the beginning of the AIDS epidemic in 1981, almost 33 million people have died. In 2019, 12 million people living with HIV did not have access to life-saving antiretroviral treatment and nearly 700,000 people died of AIDS-related causes.
We need to learn from the painful experience of the HIV/AIDS epidemic and fight for Vaccine Equality. This is why the Left tabled an amendment demanding European Parliament support for India and South Africa’s proposal in the WTO for a TRIPS waiver on vaccines, diagnostic and treatments for Covid-19.
According to Miguel Urban (Anticapitalistas, Spain), “Access to health is a human right. But inequality worldwide means there is only one effective response to global pandemics like AIDS: universal public health care.
“The market has proved incapable of tackling global challenges such as a pandemic. Waiving private patents is the first crucial step in putting lives and health rights before profits.
“The EU’s passivity means complicity in prolonging the pandemic, costing thousands of lives every day. Inaction kills,” Urbán concluded.
This is the second time that the Left in the European Parliament presents such a proposal.
Last month, the centre-right European People’s Party (EPP), the centre-left (S&D) and the liberals (Renew Europe) voted to reject the TRIPS agreement waiver.
Days later, US President Biden announced America’s support for patents’ suspension, making the EU the main blocker of this vital measure to beat the pandemic.
Germany, home to BioNTech, which has a vaccine supply contract worth billions of euros with the EU, is said to be among those stalling progress.
Last week right-wingers and liberals in the European Parliament delayed the vote on a resolution on TRIPS waiver, to stall progress at a crucial upcoming WTO meeting.
Miguel Urbán Crespo