Bangkok AIDS Conference
Tuesday, July 13, 2004
Pfizer chief heckled at AIDS conference
By South-East Asia correspondent Peter Lloyd
Protesters have staged a noisy demonstration during a speech by the head of a multinational drug company at the World AIDS Conference in Bangkok.
There were angry scenes when the demonstrators were challenged by a rival group of protestors, an unknown group of Americans defending capitalism.
Pfizer chief executive Hank McKinnell had just begun a speech defending pharmaceutical copyright patents on AIDS medication.
Around 100 demonstrators marched into the auditorium, demanding patents be lifted to allow for cheaper, generic treatments. A dozen body bags were hoisted onto the stage to represent people who had died from AIDS because they could not afford proper treatment.
Protestors disrupt AIDS forum
July 13, 2004 SMH
The world AIDS forum was disrupted Tuesday by demonstrators targeting western politicians and pharmaceutical companies to demand cheaper drugs and more money to tackle the pandemic.
Activists jeered a French minister and halted a speech by the head of drug giant Pfizer as tempers flared amid complaints that efforts to tackle the pandemic were being hampered by a cash crisis.
Western drug giants are key targets for protesters who say the worst-hit countries in sub-Saharan Africa and other developing nations cannot afford their patented antiretoviral (ARV) drugs that have had a dramatic effect in cutting AIDS deaths.
A group of 30 activists on Tuesday stormed the main debating arena at the 15th International AIDS Conference, with its theme of Access for All, as Pfizer chief executive Hank McKinnell prepared to speak.
Carrying banners saying "Patient rights, not patent rights." and chanting "free the people, break the patents", the group halted the meeting for several minutes.
A Thai activist was allowed to address the meeting of some 200 people. "Expensive ARVs prevent access for all," said Boonniem Wongjaikam, of the Thai Network of People Living with HIV/AIDS.
"We need cheap ARVs."
Generic drugs manufacturers copy patented antiretoviral treatments and sell them at prices below those set by the pharmaceutical giants.
AIDS activists say it has helped drive down the cost of an annual regimen of antiretrovirals in developing countries from $US10,000 ($A13,790) - $US12,000 ($A16,548 ) per person two years ago to several hundred dollars, or even lower.
Members of the French activist group ACT UP earlier jeered France's minister for development and cooperation, Xavier Darcos, and said similar "actions" were planned.
Darcos was about to deliver a speech on behalf of French President Jacques Chirac when about a dozen protestors left their seats in the auditorium and stood in front of the podium, clutching a banner reading "G8 must pay" and chanting in French "Ten thousand deaths (from AIDS) per day, Darcos wants more".
Darcos listened impassively as the loud, brief but peaceful demonstration unfolded, which ended after about 10 minutes when the activists folded up the banner and left the room.
In his address, Chirac called for the Global Fund on AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria to be given three billion US dollars a year, "by sharing this effort among Europe, the United States and all the other donors".
Leaders in the fight against AIDS have repeatedly used the conference in the Thai capital to call for more money to tackle the crisis that has killed more than 20 million people.
Some 38 million people are currently living with HIV and the UN has warned of an explosion in cases in Asia and Eastern Europe unless immediate action is taken.
Nearly five million more infections occurred in 2003, the highest in any single year.
The UN has estimated 20 billion US dollars will be needed annually by 2007 because of the growing threat from the epidemic.
The United States is by far the largest contributor to the fight against the disease with President George W Bush having pledged 15 billion US dollars over the next five years.
© 2004 AFP
AIDS ACTIVISTS TARGET BOSS
AIDS activists carrying body bags have disrupted a speech
by the chief executive of leading drugs firm Pfizer.
Tuesday July 13, 2004 sky.com
It happened at the International AIDS Conference in Bangkok.
Around 100 protesters stormed a meeting room minutes after Hank McKinnell started speaking.
They chanted: "Break the patents, treat the people."
They accuse Pfizer and other multinational drug firms of denying lifesaving drugs to HIV sufferers by charging inflated prices.
The activists, dumped the body bags on the stage, made a brief statement and left peacefully.
The campaigners say drugs made by Western companies are too expensive for people in the developing world to afford.
Also, the intellectual property rights, or patents, that the companies hold sometimes prevent poor countries from manufacturing copies.
Drugs firms say the high prices are to offset the billions of dollars they spend on research.
see also Generics and Fixed Dose Medicines
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