2004 Interview with Lawyers Collective HIV/AIDS unit in Mumbai, India

The following is an excerpt from an unpublished interview Sandeep conducted in 2004 in Bombay:

The battle against HIV/AIDS in developing countries will get even tougher starting Jan. 1, 2005. That’s the date the World Trade Organization’s TRIPS (Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights) agreement goes into full force. When the law first went into effect in 1995, it allowed developing nations to produce and sell at lower prices drugs patented by Western companies. This was a crucial exemption that allowed countries like India to make affordable antiretroviral drugs. But soon all countries will have to implement the trade agreement’s full patent protections, pushing the cost of some medications out of reach for the local populace.

"This is not just an HIV treatment issue–it applies to various industries–but it’s a matter of big concern in the HIV context," said Vivek Divan, an attorney and project coordinator of the advocacy group Lawyers Collective HIV/AIDS unit in Mumbai, India. "How will the West’s monopolies in pharmaceuticals patents ultimately impact access to these drugs at a fair cost? There are emerging treatments that over the next 10 years will provide more sophisticated antiretroviral drugs that will be out of reach for people in countries like India."

Divan recently took time to discuss the HIV/AIDS crisis in India, the effectiveness of the government’s efforts, and to layout the issues grassroots organizations will face in the coming years.

Q.  What are some of the most pressing issues facing HIV/AIDS grassroots organization over the next five years?

A.  The delivery of antiretroviral treatments is going to be a key issue in the next few years. How do you build the inventory? How do you build community preparedness? 

Vaccine research is also a great area of concern.  We have guidelines on the ethics of biomedical and behavioral research in India but we also have a history of abuse of those guidelines where subjects of research have been damaged. Women have especially been exploited for contraceptive research. How do you implement guidelines and ensure that researchers follow them?

Another big challenge is that surveillance [statistical surveying] has to improve. I don’t think they have the right numbers. Is it 4.58 million? Is it many more? How can they say that Bihar and Uttar Pradesh have a low prevalence of HIV? How can they possibly be providing such statistics? I know personally of 10 people who are dead in Bihar from HIV and they say they’ve only had 40 cases in the last 10 years. The numbers cannot be so low…

One Response to “2004 Interview with Lawyers Collective HIV/AIDS unit in Mumbai, India”

  1. mary driscoll says:

    I read your comments concerning bihar surveillance with great interest…I am returning to give workshops in Patna about positive prevention and then on to Bombay. I would love to meet with you or any grassroots workers. I have a non profit grassroots theater organization of infected and affected women and girls who weave their stories into one soical fabric