CSOs warn against rushed TRIPS enforcement

HIV/AIDS management in Uganda is likely to be frustrated by the enforcement of the Trade related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights that limit the accessibility and affordability of generic Anti-retroviral drugs.

The civil society made this warning as they protested the World Trade Organization negotiations with European countries aimed at ensuring that the Least Developed countries conform to the Intellectual Property Rights agreements within the next 7 years despite their low technological and scientific capacities.

The European Union, US and other countries have been in informal meetings trying to pressure poor countries to agree to the limited time for the enforcement of the Trade Related Intellectual Property agreements.

The director centre for Health Human Rights and Development, Moses Mulumba says that within the limited period of 7 years Uganda and other poor countries will not be in position to produce or even procure the expensive branded drugs for their populations.

Mulumba says that it is unfortunate that the European Union is instead pressurizing these countries to agree to a limited period of years to enforce the unfair trade agreements with total disregard to social and economic rights.

He says that the informal meeting chaired by the WTO TRIPS council suggesting 5-7years is unfair and unacceptable because this will not give us as a country adequate time to overcome capacity constraints to develop a viable and competitive technological base.

Mulumba says it is very unfortunate for our partners in the America and European Union to talk about Human rights but when they only refer to civil political rights, social economic rights like the right of health, the right to education is equally important.

“inevitably if the period is not extended the enforcement of Intellectual Property will start without considering the flexibilities advocated for long and this will mean people will not access cheaper drugs and as such people will die”-Mulumba explains.

Calling for unlimited extension from the European Union, the programs director at the centre for Health, Human Rights and Development Primah Kwagala says countries like Uganda that largely depend on generic medicines including ARVS will not afford to continue their fight against HIV/AIDS.

It should be noted that 90% of drugs in Uganda are imports, the majority of which are generic versions from India.

As per requirement of under the TRIPS agreement, India is supposed to grant product patents for drugs and pharmaceuticals that is why we have development partnerships with India like between Sippar and Quality chemicals  so that is why Quality Chemical is enable to produce medicines but if we were enforcing Intellectual Property right in Uganda that would not be possible because we would have to get patent rights from owners who are from EU and US so the  ability to access Cheap medicines on the market in Uganda would be curtailed .

“And research has confirmed that we can eliminate the spread of HIV/AIDS if people are put on treatment but if we cannot afford to produce medicines locally for our people in Uganda and yet the EU is only giving us 5 years within which we develop capacity to do that, it is really unrealistic position that we come today to oppose”-Kwagala said.

So as the Trade Related Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) Council meet next week 10th-11th June Kwagala called on the European Union and the US to back off Uganda’s medicine, to back off her laws and policies to give the LDCS the right for unlimited extension within which they can improve capacities to produce medicines, build capacities for an industrial base because in five years it’s just impossible to do that.

 Anti-HIVAIDS activists and a section of people living with HIV joined a peaceful protest against the decision by the World Trade Organization and the European Countries to continue pushing for a limited period for the poorer countries to enforce the Intellectual Property rights.

The protest came after Police denied the civil society permission to peacefully match to the European Union offices in Uganda to express their concerns on ground that EU are major donors to Uganda.

The coordinator of the Kawempe homebase care Alliance a group that brings together over 450 HIV/AIDS affected people, Nalongo Annet Kasiaja says government of Uganda should help appeal to the EU to revise its position on limiting the transition period.

Nalongo Kasaija who is also HIV positive says that We have many people who are suffering from HIV/AIDS but now when those developed countries come with a limit on the period to build Uganda’s capacity to produce her  own Antiretroviral Drugs then that means own people are going to be dying every day.

Meanwhile the executive director the Southern and Eastern African Trade Information and Negotiation Institute (SEATINI) Ambassador Nathan Irumba asked Lawmakers to craft the industrial Property Bill in a manner that would ensure the enforcement of Intellectual Property Rights suits the country’s technological development levels.