The trade-off outlined in David Batstone’s “The HIV Trade-Off” (February 2006) doesn’t have to be made. While it is true that antiretroviral treatment of AIDS is expensive, it need not be. The reason it is expensive is because the drug companies charge a lot for the drugs.
Brazil has figured out a way to provide treatment and do preventive work. Written off 15 years ago because of the burgeoning HIV/AIDS epidemic and the perceived lack of options, Brazil fought back. Today, the country has contained the spread of the disease; those infected are getting antiretroviral treatment. Public health messages are frequent, visible, and effective. Brazilian leaders even addressed the problem of illiteracy that made compliance with complex drug instructions difficult.
They refused to abandon those already infected; they didn’t accept that they would have to choose the infected over the uninfected. They did both. How? They started manufacturing their own antiretrovirals.
Each country, as each person, must develop its own moral sense. Is it acceptable to ignore patent laws, or should they condemn generations to death?