South Africa`s struggle against Aids and the pharamceutical multinationals
South Africa is ranked amongst countries of the world to be the most devastated country as far as the epidemic of HIVAIDS. With the rate of infection going on in the manner it is doing, the economy is likely to face a downward slope in the next few years. This is so in the light of the fact that the epidemic is endemic amongst the productive labour force and in particular the young people.
International pharmaceutical companies in South Africa for their part, are profiting with the high cost of drugs that are necessary for the treatment of the opportunistic diseases such as TB and so on. Taking into account that the epidemic has reached disastrous proportions, our government was forced to invoke international patent law, which justifies government to apply parallel importation of drugs, necessary to curb especially mother to child transmission.
O 31 October 1997, parliament passed Medicines and related Substances Control Amendment Act No 90, so that it could start providing affordable drugs to the citizenry. Subsequently, Pharmaceutical manufacturers Association (PMA) and forty multinational drug companies interdicted the implementation of this law. After three years, the case is yet to be heard in the Pretoria High court. From the 5 – 12 March 2001, the government and the people of South Africa, the poor and black people in general will stand trial against the multinational pharmaceutical companies. This trial will be nothing but the trial of life versus profits.
Thousands of HIV/AIDS sufferers will gather in Pretoria especially our working people to protest against the 40 multinationals. COSATU will be mobilising all its workers to support the endeavour by the democratic government so that we could get generic drugs at a cheaper price anywhere else in world. This would surely alleviate the problems of government and in addition, allow all of our people to focus the fiscus on issues of poverty alleviation, quality housing and job creation.
COSATU takes this opportunity to call on all our international friends from across the globe to pressurise these multinationals to stop the trial against the poor in South Africa. We appeal to all working people world wide to support the struggle of South African workers against the greed and monopoly by pharmaceutical companies.
We will consequently be organising a night vigil on the eve of the trial in Pretoria High Court, in protest of this horrendous conduct of multinational companies.