HIV/AIDS Groups Warn India Against EU Trade Deal

A pair of local HIV/AIDS groups have added their names to an international network of charities urging India not to sign a pending free trade deal with the European Union, worried it will cut into Cambodia’s supply of cheap antiretroviral drugs.

According to UNAIDS, some 95 percent of Cambodia’ ART drugs come from India, most of them generic.

Geneva-based Doctors Without Borders, which also opposes the deal, claims the terms the EU is pushing for would keep affordable, generic versions of the drugs they rely on off the market for an extra 10 years.

The Cambodian People Living with HIV/AIDS Network “understands that current negotiations involve the EU advocating for higher standards of intellectual property provisions and enforcement,” a statement from the group released yesterday said.

“However, CPN believes this advocacy takes place under the guise of prioritizing maximum profits for the pharmaceutical industries operating out of the EU with little forethought of the devastating consequences this could have for millions of people living with HIV globally.”

“If India signs…we are afraid India cannot produce any more generic drugs,” said Pen Mony, a coordinator for the Cambodian Community of Women Living with HIV/AIDS, which also opposes the trade deal.

Some 67,000 Cambodians live with HIV, according to the latest figures from UNAIDS. Mean Chhi Vun, director of the National Center for HIV/AIDS, Dermatology and STDs, said he was not prepared to opine about the trade deal yesterday. But with most of the roughly 41,600 Cambodians currently receiving free ARVs from the government getting drugs of the generic Indian variety, he said, any major cut to that supply would be “a disaster.”

An official at the Indian Embassy who declined to give his name or title said it would be premature to comment on the pending deal’s effects on Cambodia.

Rafael Dochao Moreno, charge d’affaires for the European Commission in Cambodia, could not be reached.

On Wednesday, Reuters reported that trade negotiations in Brussels had been held up over other issues, including tariffs on liquor imports from Europe and how freely Indian professionals would be able to travel through the EU.

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