Patents or Life
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 Desert.

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 symptoms.

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."
Mombasa-Cape Town / Peace Boat's 36th Voyage