Letter from U.N. Special Envoys for HIV/AIDS to the Prime Minister and President of India on the Amendments to the Patents Act Under Debate.

New York,
11 March 2005

The Honourable Dr. Manmohan Singh
Prime Minister of India
South Block, Raisina Hall
New Delhi, 110 001, India

Dr. Avul Pakir Jainulabdeen Abdul Kalam
President of India
Rashtrapati Bhawan
New Delhi 110 004, India


We are writing to you, in our capacities as the United Nations' Special Envoys for HIV/AIDS in Asia and the Pacific, and in Africa, on a matter of urgent importance. We believe that enlightened decisions by the Indian Parliament over the next several days can offer the protections needed to prolong millions of lives, and maintain India's leading role as a supplier of affordable medicines to the developing world.

As a reflection of our deep concern, we should note that this is the first time that the two of us have ever collaborated on such an appeal.

India's role in addressing the global AIDS pandemic has been crucial. Your Government's long history of ensuring the primacy of public health over intellectual property set the stage for principled positions and legislation promoting access to essential HIV medicines. As a result, the lives of HIV-positive people throughout the developing world are now being sustained by quality generic drugs.

Continued access to affordable antiretrovirals and other HIV-related medicines promises to prolong millions more lives in the immediate future. We are deeply concerned that, following the 1 January 2005 full implementation deadline for the TRIPS Agreement, those lives are now in jeopardy.

As you know, Excellencies, the Indian Parliament's current discussion of the President's Patent Ordinance will determine the scope of India's patent protection for the future. Approximately one-half of the 700,000 people currently receiving HIV treatment in developing countries depend on India's pharmaceutical manufacturers. Because international efforts are underway to multiply the number of people on treatment many times over, the outcome of Parliament's discussions will also decide the futures of millions of people worldwide.

We are truly at a turning point in our response to the pandemic of HIV/AIDS. The goal of putting three million people into treatment by the end of this year has prompted a reservoir of hope. But for that hope to be fulfilled, generic drugs must be available. People Living With AIDS stand poised between life and death. The Parliament of India can make it possible for millions of people to embrace life.

Excellencies, we urge that every flexibility offered by the TRIPS Agreement be incorporated in the President's Patent Ordinance and that no "TRIPS-plus" provisions are included which would jeopardize the continued supply of crucial, affordable AIDS therapies and other essential medicines by India to the world. It is not possible to exaggerate the international importance of the decisions facing India.

It is our fervent hope that amendments to the 1970 Patent Act will be made in the praiseworthy spirit that characterized India's courageous leadership during negotiations of the World Trade Organization's Uruguay Round and the Doha Declaration on TRIPS and Public Health.

Accept, Excellencies, the assurances of our highest consideration.

Nafis Sadik, M.D.
Special Envoy of the UN Secretary-General
HIV/AIDS in Asia and the Pacific

Stephen Lewis,
Special Envoy of the UN Secretary-General
HIV/AIDS in Africa

cc: The Hon. Kamal Nath, Minister of Industry and Commerce
Ministry of External Affairs,
South Block Raisina Hall,
New Delhi 110 001, India

Mrs. Sonia Gandhi, Indian National Congress Party Chairman
10, Janpath, New Delhi 119 001, India

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