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Tuesday, 24 April, 2001, 16:05 GMT 17:05 UK
Brazil wins Aids drugs vote
Market in Salvador, Brazil
The number of infections in Brazil has plummeted
The United Nations Human Rights Commission has voted overwhelmingly in support of a Brazilian resolution calling for universal medical treatment for people with HIV and Aids.

The United States, which is at present bringing a case against Brazil at the World Trade Organisation for ignoring international patent rules, was the only country to abstain and criticise the move.

"It could well have the unintended consequence of discouraging investment in the important research desperately needed to find the cures of the future

US Ambassador, George Moose
Brazil is the only country in the developing world which provides free universal treatment for all HIV and Aids sufferers, and allows the production of cheap generic drugs.

The UN vote comes after 39 multi-national pharmaceutical companies dropped their case to stop South Africa buying or producing cheaper versions of patented Aids drugs.

Last week's developments in South Africa were hailed as a victory for Aids activists, who say cheaper medication is desperately needed to tackle the Aids crisis in the developing world.

Mortality drop

The latest UN resolution by the 53-nation Human Rights Commission will be seen as a further endorsement to that campaign.

Aids drugs
Aids drugs are available free in Brazil
The resolution specifically calls for countries to adopt legislation similar to that in place in Brazil, which is in dispute of the WTO.

"Millions are dying. Fighting Aids should come before any other considerations, and I am glad the commission passed the resolution," said Brazil's Political Affairs Minister, Federico Mayer.

Brazil already has a law which allows production of cheap generic drugs if they are not being produced in the country within three years of development.

Patents usually last for 10 years, but the Brazilians argue the results justify the policy. Mortality from Aids has dropped by more than 50% in the country.

The disease is, however, still spreading and the Brazilians argue they need whatever new drugs are available to contain the epidemic. The United States disagrees with the policy.

The United States criticised the UN resolution, describing it as flawed.

"It could well have the unintended consequence of discouraging investment in the important research desperately needed to find the cures of the future," said Ambassador George Moose.

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See also:

19 Apr 01 | Africa
Head-to-head: Aids drugs
19 Apr 01 | Africa
SA victory in Aids drugs case
03 Feb 01 | Americas
Brazil in US Aids drugs row
07 Nov 00 | Americas
Latin America 'faces Aids epidemic'
23 Nov 99 | Health
HIV hits 50 million
24 Oct 00 | Aids
Aids drugs factfile
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