| Tatsuo Hayashi continued his Peace Boat lectures with
"Patents or Life," a highly critical overview of the political and
commercial workings behind the AIDS-related pharmaceutical industry.
He described the oft-repeated pattern of HIVs spread into a nation's
populace, a drama which has been replayed in countries around the
globe, from the U.S. to Thailand to South Africa. The disease first
takes root in high-risk portions of the population, such as drug users
and sex workers. Then, "the illness moves as people move," according
to Hayashi - initially it springs up along major trucking and transportation
routes, then spreads out into more rural areas. This steady infiltration
led to over 13 million AIDS cases world wide in 2000, with over 90
percent occurring in regions of Africa which lay south of the Sahara
In the vast majority of countries with HIV epidemics, AIDS inhibitors
are unavailable to most patients due mainly to the high price of such
medication. AIDS inhibitors keep AIDS, a deadly depletion of the immune
system, from developing in individuals who are HIV positive. They
allow HIV carriers to live ordinary lives, often with only flu-like
Hayashi worked to explain the politics behind the Anti-retroviral
therapy (ARV) industry together with members of Peace Boat's Global
University, who role-played characters such as "the U.S. pharmaceutical
industry", "Brazil," and "AIDS medicine patents."
In a lively and highly simplified presentation aimed at members of
the audience who were new to the subject, they explained how the U.S.
pharmaceutical industry, working closely with the U.S. government,
has sought to expand national patents on ARVs to the international
level. This has been done to lock out competition and keep prices
high, even in countries where those most affected by HIV have little
means to pay. They also described how governments in Brazil and South
Africa have fought back, ignoring the claims of patent-holders and
reverse-engineering ARVs to produce generic, low-cost versions for
their citizens, and how recently international courts have ruled in
favor of their right to do so.
The lecture ended with a lively debate, in which members of the audience
broke into small groups to discuss what action Japan, which has remained
largely outside of the debate so far, should take. Suggestions ranged
from "doing nothing" to "following America's lead" to "financing free
AIDS medicines for those in need around the world."