AIDS – emblematic in the fight for access to medication

© Panos

Unequal access to health among the populations of the South has taken centre stage for the last twenty years with the creation of the World Trade Organisation (WTO) and with the HIV/AIDS crisis. In the face of the pandemic, countries such as South Africa have been forced to take urgent measures to stem the progression of the disease. These measures have often been challenged before the courts by the pharmaceutical industry when counter to their economic interests. 

This desire to maximise profits at any cost sparked public outrage. It also led to a reflection in political spheres, and the problem of access to medication began to be discussed, in particular the question of the price of antiretrovirals (treatments for AIDS). While most of the sick were in the southern hemisphere, for a long time new treatments were inaccessible to them. The reason: the prohibitive cost due to patents.

Thanks to the arrival of generics, the price of treatment has gone from 10,000 dollars per year to less than 100 dollars today.

This drastic price reduction has made it possible to massively increase the number of people under antiretroviral treatment in the world (2 million in 2005 compared to 20 million in 2017. Nevertheless, much remains to be done in this area to reach the objective of treating all 36 million people living with HIV, according to the United Nations (UNAIDS 2016).