Sussex Stop AIDS members distributed ‘baggies’ filled with fake drugs to draw attention to World AIDS Day on 1st december.
They have started a campiagn called Missing Medicines to lobby the UK government to support global drug research and development which they believe currently is too profit-based and does not concentrate enough on providing drugs for AIDS.
The campaign aims to raise awareness of how “around 36.9 million people globally are living with HIV/AIDS but only 15 million have access to proper treatment.”
The ‘baggies’ were filled with either caster sugar, basil, Dib-Dab powder or Tic-Tacs. Included was a paper message, stating: “In the last 50 years we’ve had THOUSANDS of legal highs but only 2 new drug treatments for TB which killed 1.5 million people last year. Our drug Research & Development system is FUCKED UP”. A link to their #MissingMedicines petition was also included on the note.
Guy Wilson, the Youth Stop AIDS campaigner, said: “Our stunt is a fun way to show a serious problem.”
He believes that too much is being spent on researching drugs that can return a profit, such as legal highs and hay fever medication, while not enough is being done to fight HIV and TB, especially in the developing world.
The society has been writing to local MP’s to get their support and to encourage them to sign the online petition.
James Cole, President of Sussex Youth Stop AIDS, said: “There is also a lot more that we want to do locally. Brighton has the highest prevalence of HIV/AIDS outside London and 1 in 4 people in the UK with HIV/AIDS don’t know that they have it.”
Youth Stop AIDS want the UK Government to attend a meeting of the World Health Organisation (WHO) in March 2016 to discuss the need for research and development of essential drugs to combat HIV globally.
The Youth Stop AIDS Coordinator Tabitha Ha stated: “Never before has there been an opportunity like this to fix our global system. Just a small amount of investment and cooperation is all that is needed to save the lives of millions of people worldwide.”
Georgina Statt, who supports the campaign, has written to Peter Kyle, a Labour MP in Brighton, to secure his support for the Missing Medicine’s campaign and for the WHO’s reforms. She hopes he will ask the government about how they plan to support research and development at the WHO meeting in March.
James Cole also said: “Our current profit-led research and development system means skewed incentives for pharmaceutical companies. Medical research is driven towards the medicines likely to earn the most profit, meaning if the development of vital medicines is not profitable, they’re not produced. So this means that there’s been 7 times more treatments for hay fever that has been for TB!”
The Sussex LGBTQ Society are also working to raise awareness for AIDS and backing the campaign. They have been promoting the testing of STI’s including HIV in the Sussex Student Life Centre on campus and said “We think it is important to combat the stigma that still surrounds HIV and STIs and encourage regular testing, especially among high risk groups, (including, but not limited to, men who have sex with men), as early detection leads to early treatment that thankfully means those with HIV can expect to have a similar lifespan to those without, and it can stop HIV being passed onto more people.”
LGBTQ also joined the Brighton community that came together on the evening of 1st December for a candlelit vigil in memory of all those that have been lost to AIDS.
Jess Scholfield News Sub-editor