In March 2005, India passed a new patent law that is likely to have global ramifications in the treatment of AIDS patients – especially those in the developing world –who depend on India's generic drug industry to provide drugs well below the prices charged by multinational pharmaceutical companies. In order to join the World Trade Organization, India had to fulfill the obligation to recognize and protect global patents. The bill that was passed in March meets this requirement. Much of the mainstream press has emphasized a business perspective when reporting this development, focusing on India's opportunity to tap the Western generic drug market while only briefly acknowledging the potentially devastating impact of the new rule on vulnerable populations.
During the summer of 2005, we plan to create a baseline record that establishes how India's HIV-infected populations depend on the Indian versions of Western patented Anti-retro Viral (ARV) drugs to survive. The baseline will also establish how they think they will manage as drug prices surge and any stockpiled drugs are depleted.
Using audio recorders, photographs and video, Sandeep Junnarkar and Srinivas Kuruganti [see team information here] plan to document the lives of families struggling to buy ARV drugs to keep a family member healthy; the challenges that stigmatized AIDS patients face in trying to earn enough money to buy the lifesaving treatment; activists desperately searching for new sources of inexpensive ARV drugs or lobbying the Indian government to grant compulsory licenses to continue producing cheap drugs. We plan to visit AIDS shelters and hospices in and around Mumbai, Bangalore, and Chennai.
The project will harness the Internet to showcase an issue with global ramifications — not just as information but as a way to involve viewers.
A multimedia grassroots expose can completely bypass the traditional media gatekeepers to help people gain awareness of a pressing issue. We hope the project will not only inform people around the world that India's new patent law is likely to have a global impact, further aggravating the AIDS health crisis, but also allow them to spread the information widely using built-in Internet technologies. We also hope the multimedia slide presentation moves them to take the next step by clicking on the links to send emails to the appropriate officials or organizations to acknowledge the potential health crisis.
The expenses for this project are primarily travel costs to and within India. As a grassroots effort, Srinivas and Sandeep plan to stay with family, friends and at inexpensive hotels. We strongly believe that this issue will be ignored by the mainstream media but is of global importance because of the ramifications of the new patent law on the AIDS treatment. Nonetheless, the total cost to report, record, photograph and video is in the range of $5,000.
Indiana University has kindly provided $2,000 of the total $5,000 required for helping to defray the cost of air travel, video tapes and other minimum necessities. Please help by donating any amount you can afford.
Please visit our web site to help support this project.