Indymedia, December 1, 2001

World AIDS Day: Demonstration in Berkeley

On November 30, 100 demonstrators marched from Roche Laboratories to Bayer in Berkeley on the eve of World AIDS Day to protest corporate greed, high drug prices, obscene profits, and drug patent monopolies. The protest was attended by members of ACT UP/East Bay, the Gray Panthers, Global Exchange, Vote Health, Hemophilia Justice, Public Citizen, Art & Revolution, and others.

Putting the "world" back in World AIDS Day, activists called attention to the lack of access to AIDS drugs in poor countries due to drug patent monopolies held by big pharmaceutical companies. Several speakers noted the hypocrisy in the fact that while the US has consistently protected US firms from attempts by South Africa, Brazil, and others developing countries to produce cheap generic versions of patented AIDS drugs, the US government in October threatened to itself override Bayer's patent on the anthrax drug Cipro.

Speakers from Public Citizen, the Gray Panthers, and Vote Health emphasized that an estimated 71 million US residents -- including many seniors -- do not have prescription coverage and high no access to high-priced drugs. Public Citizen President Joan Clayton noted that while Big Pharma claims high drug prices are necessary to fund new drug research and development, in fact the companies spend 3 times as much on marketing, advertisiting, and administration, not to mention employing a small army of Capitol Hill lobbyists.

Members of Hemophilia Justice were also protesting the fact that many hemophiliacs contracted AIDS through contaminated blood factor produced by Bayer. Ken Baxter said that Bayer continued to sell the blood product (sometimes made from blood collected from prisoners) even after they knew it was contaminated, in order not to lose money.