HIV/AIDS Groups Warn India Against Possible EU Trade Deal

A pair of local HIV/AIDS groups 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’s 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 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 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. 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 anonymous official at the Indian Embassy said it would be premature to comment on the deal’s effects on Cambodia. Rafael Dochao Moreno, charge d’affaires for the European Commission in Cambodia, could not be reached.

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