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Patents, Pills, and the Press

The Rise and Fall of the Global HIV/AIDS Medicines Crisis in the News


Thomas Owen

HIV/AIDS is a global health crisis of unprecedented proportions. Afflicting millions worldwide, its social, political, economic, and ethical dimensions have rendered explicit the vast inequalities of our «negatively globalized planet». Since the late 1990s, a major feature of the crisis has been the dispute over intellectual property protection and medicines access.
In this book, Thomas Owen examines the mediatization of this dispute. Weaving together contemporary media theory and interdisciplinary research with computer-assisted news analysis and interviews with journalists and civil society campaigners, the book illuminates the intersecting constitutive relationships between global crises, global governance, and global media. In a context of changing media technologies, logics, and practices, this book observes where the mediatized conflict surrounding global medicines access has at times consolidated elite political economic power, and at other times provided civil society campaigners their greatest opportunities for global social change.
With an interdisciplinary approach, this book is suitable for courses on global media communication and global journalism, as well as advanced undergraduate and postgraduate courses in public health communication, political communication, social movement studies, and international relations.
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Chapter 7. 2003–2013: Third Wave AIDS Activism, TRIPS-Plus, and the New Media Ecology


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Third Wave AIDS Activism, TRIPS-Plus,and the New Media Ecology

After the South African trial things did change for a while. A lot of people felt kind of embarrassed about suing Nelson Mandela….Unfortunately those guys have retired now and there’s this new crop of know-nothing PR people working for drug companies who want to show their toughness of this issue, and they’re bringing it back.

—Jamie Love, Knowledge Ecology International(Love, in O’Neill Institute, 2014, 32min)

This penultimate chapter updates the story of global HIV/AIDS medicines access, patent protection, and the news media to the present day. In particular, it examines how fragmentation in three interconnected areas impacted the trajectory of the medicines crisis from 2003–2013: the fragmentation of the “Access to Medicines” CSO campaign; the fragmentation of global IPR governance; and the fragmentation of the global news media ecology. While this book has already argued that after the 2001 dislocation, medicines access discourse was ultimately dominated by a philanthropic “charity + aid” approach, to the detriment of the patent critique, this chapter further details the subsequent contextual factors suppressing the patent dispute, and leading towards the contemporary HIV/AIDS medicines “treatment timebomb.” ← 153 | 154 →

The chapter thus tells the story of how a relatively coherent CSO campaign, media platform, and policy forum for patent contestation in 2001 transformed into a fragmented campaign, negotiating context and news ecology over the following...

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