March 2, 2007
THE YOUNG AND THE RESTLESS
Youth activist Guaylupo takes off the kid gloves
Across the country this week, young people who care about ending the AIDS epidemic met with elected officials, phone- and mail-zapped the offices of Big Pharma and staged political theater as part of the third-annual Youth AIDS Day, February 26. Events also took place internationally, in keeping with the distressing statistic that, worldwide, young people (defined as ages 10 to 24) accounted for almost half of the five million new HIV infections in 2006.
The college-oriented Student Global AIDS Campaign (SGAC) was at the forefront of the week's activities. The group has called for universal treatment access by 2010 and, to that end, focused on two urgent issues: pharmaceutical company Abbott's attempts to prevent Thailand from producing a low-cost generic version of its widely used protease inhibitor Kaletra and the International Monetary Fund's (IMF) caps on the hiring of health workers in resource-poor countries.
Abbott earned SGAC's ire in January when it tried to undermine Thailand's plans to produce a generic version of Kaletra under what's known as a "compulsory license." Faced with actual market competition, Abbott offered to cut Kaletra prices in Thailand but not elsewhere. SGAC is demanding that Abbott extend affordable prices for Kaletra to all low- and middle-income countries.
"I have friends in developing countries that don't have access to meds," says Johnny Guaylupo, 25, the Youth Caucus national co-chair of the Campaign to End AIDS, who is starting an SGAC chapter at the City University of New York. Guaylupo, who is originally from Ecuador, has been HIV-positive since he was 17 years old. "I'm fortunate living in New York City and having meds, but there are people who are in need, and it's not accessible because of Abbott's greed," he says.
Reigning in the IMF
SGAC also took aim at the IMF. That body mandates that countries who receive IMF money limit spending on health care and education, even though developing nations desperately need both to fight the AIDS pandemic. Guaylupo wants folks to contact their senators this week and urge them to support the African Health Capacity Investment Act of 2007, sponsored by Dick Durbin (D-IL). The law would end IMF loan agreements that contain health care spending caps. SGAC is also calling on the U.S. to provide $8 billion over the next five years to strengthen healthcare work forces in developing countries.
This isn't the first year that the next generation of AIDS activists has thrown stones at institutions that stand in the way of ending AIDS. On the first Youth AIDS Day in 2005, 4,000 youth activists marched on Washington. It was the second largest AIDS demonstration in U.S. history and the largest in 10 years. Eighteen other countries also organized events that first year.
Having reached the ripe old age of 25 himself, Guaylupo reminds folks that Youth AIDS Day isn't just for the MTV-demographic. People of any age can get involved.
Tell Abbott you want them to assist Thailand's efforts to provide a generic version of Kaletra to all who need it by calling Abbott CEO Miles White at 847-937-6100 or 847-937-3417; fax him at 847-937-1511; or send a letter to 100 Abbott Park Road, Dept. 392, Building AP 61-2, Abbott Park, Il, 60064. You can also contact Abbott's Board of Directors. Their names and locations are available here.
To contact your senators and urge them to pass the African Health Capacity Investment Act, call 888-802-1207 and ask for your Congressmperson's office.
For more information about Student Global AIDS Campaign, www.fightglobalaids.org.