As delegates met for a second day of the United Nations high level conference on HIV/AIDS in New York yesterday, groups representing Cambodians living with the illness gathered to voice concerns that they were inadequately represented at the talks.
At a meeting in Phnom Penh yesterday, representatives of Cambodian health organisat-ions expressed frustration that the political language of the high-level meeting was oblique and noncommittal.
The groups are seeking firm assurances that parties attending the UN conference will not bow to pressure from the European Union and developed countries to tighten controls on the production of affordable generic HIV/AIDS treatments through a “draft zero” declaration and proposed free trade agreements with India.
Heng Phin, monitoring and evaluation manager at the Cambodian People Living with HIV/AIDS Network, told the meeting that research showed the price of treatments had skyrocketed by 854,000 per cent in Jordan after it signed a free trade agreement with the United States that tightened controls on generic drugs.
“We are against Europe making a free trade agreement with India so that India cannot produce HIV/AIDS drugs for Cambodia.”
Experts estimate 85 to 90 per cent of the HIV/AIDS treatments in Cambodia, which are provided free through the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Malaria and Tuberculosis, are cheap, generic copies of patented drugs developed in wealthier countries.
Pen Mony, national co-ordinator of the Cambodian Community of Women Living With HIV/AIDS, said at the meeting she hoped that the leader of Cambodia’s delegation to the talks, first lady Bun Rany, would be able to forcefully articulate local concerns.
“I hope she is aware of our concerns, and she is involved a lot in HIV response, so she knows what are the needs [of Cambodia] and what the challenge is for this country,” Pen Mony said.
“I don’t think she will use the language that the community wants her to.
“She may use her diplomatic language, but I hope that she raises our concerns and shares our concerns with those people.”
Rafael Dochao Moreno, charge d’affaires of the Eur-opean Union delegation to Cambodia, could not be reached for comment, nor could representatives of the National AIDS Authority.