Karen Godnick


Patent law has been described as "the Price of Life". This can most strikingly be seen when applied to developing countries' access to HIV/AIDS drugs. Since the explosion of the HIV/AIDS epidemic in the 1980's, the disease referred to as the "Modern Black Death" has devastated large parts of populations in several developing countries. Because of several reasons, including strong patent protection advocated and implemented by developed countries through TRIPS and the resulting high price of medicines, these developing countries cannot afford the price of the HIV/AIDS drugs. The majority of medicines used to treat this disease are patented. As of 2005 there are an estimated 38.6 million people living with HIV/AIDS. In developing and transnational countries 6.8 million people are in immediate need of HIV/AIDS drugs. Of these, only 1.65 million are actually receiving them. Eliminating patent laws will not solve this global epidemic. Allowing compulsory licensing in developing countries dealing with large number of affected persons, and strengthening parallel importation laws, can help. However, the larger issue is not simply how to treat the disease, but how to contain it and prevent its spread. This paper will examine the history of AIDS and international patent law, the ways in which they intertwine and overlap, the international patent law agreements that affect HIV/AIDS drugs distribution (specifically TRIPS §31, Doha and the 2003 Declaration, and the 2005 Amendment to TRIPS), compulsory licensing and other options available to fight the HIV/AIDS epidemic, and finally analyze public and private sector partnerships.