May 4, 2001

The Export-Import Bank should
not oppose AIDS drug access !

Dear Colleague:

I am writing to urge you to cosponsor H.R. 1690, The Export-Import Bank HIV/AIDS Medicine Access Promotion Act.

The Export-Import Bank HIV/AIDS Medicine Access Promotion Act would prohibit the Export-Import Bank from promoting exports by pharmaceutical companies that are attempting to overturn laws and policies in developing countries that promote access to affordable AIDS medicines. Specifically, this bill would prohibit Export-Import Bank guarantees, insurance and credit for the benefit of American companies that are trying to overturn developing countries' AIDS access laws through legal challenges or complaints to the United States Trade Representative (USTR) or the World Trade Organization (WTO).

In 1997, the South African government passed a law to allow the distribution of generic HIV/AIDS medicines. A total of 39 pharmaceutical companies sued the South African government to prevent this law from being implemented. These companies faced tremendous international opposition, and on April 19, 2001, the companies agreed to drop their lawsuit. However, multinational pharmaceutical companies are continuing to pressure other developing countries to sacrifice the lives of people living with AIDS for the sake of their profits.

Brazil has developed a model program for the treatment and prevention of HIV/AIDS in developing countries. The program is based on the local manufacture and free distribution of generic AIDS medicines. This program has cut the number of AIDS-related deaths in half within only four years. Nevertheless, Brazil is facing pressure from pharmaceutical companies to discontinue the program. The USTR is supporting the pharmaceutical industry's claim that Brazil is violating intellectual property rights. The WTO has granted a request from the USTR to establish a panel to rule on whether Brazil is in violation of WTO intellectual property laws.

If American pharmaceutical companies are determined to deny life-saving AIDS medicines to people in countries like South Africa and Brazil, they have no business asking American taxpayers for assistance with export promotion.

The Export-Import Bank HIV/AIDS Medicine Access Promotion Act would ensure that the Export-Import Bank is not subsidizing American pharmaceutical companies while those same companies attempt to deny people in developing countries access to life-saving AIDS medicines. If you have questions or would like to cosponsor the bill, please contact Kathleen Sengstock of my staff at (202) 225-2201.


Maxine Waters
Member of Congress

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