News  Die-in protests AIDS policy

Students call for a better system to ship generic HIV/AIDS drugs

Two dozen “dead” students slowed traffic at campus’s Y-intersection on Wednesday to demand speedier delivery of medication to developing countries.

The die-in was spearheaded by the McGill Global AIDS Coalition (MGAC) and protested the inefficiency of Canada’s Access to Medicines Regime (CAMR). The regime was passed in 2004 as an amendment to the Patent Act which allows drug manufacturers to synthesize cheaper versions of patented medications for export to countries that do not have access to them. However, CAMR has only exported AIDS drugs once since its establishment, sending drugs to Rwanda.

After about ten minutes on campus, the group of roughly 40 students marched to Phillip’s Square on Ste. Catherine, chanting “Children can’t wait, cut the red tape” and “Harper, stop acting like a fool, make CAMR a useful tool!”

The students repeated the demonstration across from The Bay, undeterred by the wind and rain. Volunteers circled the dead students and urged passersby to sign postcards to Parliament demanding CAMR reform.

“I think this was a great success,” said MGAC director Jamie Lundine, who distributed postcards for the duration of the protest. “We lasted a lot longer on campus than we expected and got more than 100 postcards signed.”

Joan Sherwin, a member of the Grandmothers to Grandmothers Campaign, which seeks to provide aid to Africa, joined the die-in in solidarity with MGAC.

“Canada needs to keep a full promise,” said Sherwin. “It’s time to pay our fair share of global aid.”

Apotex, a company that used CAMR to send HIV treatment to Rwanda in 2008, has committed to sending pediatric formulas of AIDS medication to Africa only if Canadian export restrictions are made less cumbersome and costly. Several MGAC volunteers wearing pill bottle costumes struggled against a stretch of red cloth to symbolize the red tape that has bogged down the delivery of AIDS medication to developing countries.

MGAC has hosted a multitude of on-campus AIDS awareness events this year, including World AIDS Week in November and a Disparity Dinner in March. The die-in was MGAC’s final event of the school year, which coincided with a long-awaited development in Canada’s foreign aid.

Last Wednesday, federal Senator Yoine Goldstein tabled legislation to streamline the complicated processes resulting from CAMR. Lundine hoped that further improvements would be made to CAMR legislation in the coming year.