Aids in South Africa
In an effort to control the spreading of the AIDS epidemic in South Africa, The South African government enacted a controversial patent law, the effect of which would enable the country to import or manufacture much-needed AIDS medicines at substantially lower costs than usually available. The pharmaceutical industry and the United States government opposed this legislation believing it would undermine the importance of protecting intellectual property rights. The United States eventually imposed sanctions on South Africa. An uneasy truce was finally reached, and in 1999 South Africa was considered amendments to the patent law. The United States position softened in response to the scope of the epidemic and the need to provide medicines in South Africa at affordable prices, and the President of the United States issued an Executive Order prohibiting sanctions.
This case raises the issue of balancing private rights, pharmaceutical patents, and the public interest in controlling the AIDS epidemic in South Africa. Students will be able to balance these factors against a backdrop of a new regime in South Africa politics and a powerful industry supported by the United States government, a strong proponent of intellectual property protection.