Saturday, July 06, 2002

unmedia weighs in on the AIDs debate, coming to many of the same conclusions as I did in my earlier critique, backing it up with quite a few more of the Galt-esque charts and graphs than I would be easily comfortable with. It's as convincing a repudiation of the Den Beste "let them all die and the disease dies too" argument as I could ask for.

One minor quibble: some of Aziz's figures, although definitely important, don't really say what I think he thinks they say. The mortality figures he quoted were (at least implied to be) those of the general population, not of those with HIV... I'd be more interested in seeing whether HIV patients are actually dying of other conditions than how AIDS deaths relate to mortality at large.

(By the way, this isn't as morbid an argument as it seems- people with HIV dying of other diseases implies that HIV and perhaps even AIDS will become a treatable condition instead of a deadly disease, and that may be a close to a cure as we ever get.)

And Aziz cites what I hadn't: clear examples of drug companies buckling under the pressure to allow AIDS- and HIV-afflicted countries to import or create generic versions at substantial discounts.

Finally, what about point [c] ? Having established that treatment works to reduce mortality and that education reduces infection, how are we going to pay for it? But the answer is that we do not need to pay for it. Brazil has defied AIDS drug patents to manufacture the drugs for treatment locally, invoking the sovereign power of eminent domain. The drug companies quickly capitulated, offerring huge discounts, realizing that it was better to get something rather than nothing. The US also took a supportive role in this...

...[t]hat's a good PR move on their part, but it is also the moral thing to do. Drugs are like software, the cost is in the development. Suppose there are millions of people who need your drugs, and they cant afford it and they die. Suppose instead that those millions of people are given generic versions of those drugs and they live. Either way, your economic position as a drug company is unaffected - you get nothing. There is no disincentive for drug research by taking this course of action, as the drug companies claim. In fact, as Roche and Bristol Myers and other companies also realized, might as well make some profit off the transaction.

(To put it more simply, property rights don't trump the sovereignty of states.)

It's a good piece, and I'd recommend checking it out. One thing, though: that bit about Den Beste being property-uber-alles was just speculation. I had said that I hoped it wasn't the case, and am relieved that it isn't. Doesn't boost the quality of his arguments much, but I'd prefer to make that clear.

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