Community Property: challenging monopolies on medicines in South East Asia

Community Property: challenging monopolies on medicines in South East Asia


Affordable generic HIV and Hepatitis C (HCV) medication are key to universal healthcare. The Community Property project successfully increased access to these medicines by challenging Intellectual Property barriers through advocacy and community capacity strengthening in Bangladesh, Myanmar and Vietnam.

Among others, Dolutegravir became available as generic version in Vietnam. In Myanmar, availability of generic HCV medication caused a price drop from 140 to 16 USD, and community advocacy efforts further reduced this to 9 USD.

The project was led by the Asia Pacific Network of People Living with HIV (APN+) together with in-country partners Vietnam Network of People living with HIV/AIDS (VNP+), Myanmar Positive Group (MPG) and Ashar Alo Society, Bangladesh (AAS).

Project details

Time frame
01 May 2018 - 30 April 2021
€ 250,000
Active in
Bangladesh, Myanmar (Burma), Thailand, Vietnam


The project aimed to ensure patent law reform through inclusion and actual use of TRIPS flexibilities, with increased access to medication for people living with HIV and co-infected with HCV, as a result.

Three interlinked strategies guided the implementation of this project: research, capacity-building and advocacy. Research analysed the laws and regulations hampering access to medication, such as TRIPS flexibilities in the new Patent Law, the Intellectual Property Rights chapter in the Free Trade agreements, and other barriers in the use of intellectual property rights. The result of those studies were used to capacitate the community to mobilize relevant stakeholders taking part in the advocacy activities to eliminate harmful clauses and maximize TRIPS flexibilities.

Community groups

Patent law reform in South East Asia highly benefits people living with HIV and those co-infected with Hepatitis C in this region


Progress related to affordable medication is under threat. New medicines are protected by patents, giving the inventor a monopoly. This means that new medicine enter the market at high prices impeding access to affordable medicine. At the same time, assurance of treatment access is a considerable motivating factor for people to test for HIV.

In Myanmar 250,000 people are estimated to be living with HIV and HCV co-infections are 5.3%. In Bangladesh 12,000 people live with HIV. Both countries are likely to graduate Least Developed Country status in 2024/2025 resulting in a steep decrease in funding, price discounts and licenses.

In Vietnam 260,000 people live with HIV and HCV co-infection is high. As a middle income country, Vietnam is excluded from key licenses. It has recently signed a free-trade agreement with TRIPS-plus with the EU, providing privileges in judicial proceedings for the benefits of Intellectual Property holders.

One-in-three people with HIV had access to HIV treatment in 2015 in the region, that also has a high HCV burden. With decreasing funds, availability of affordable generic medication is key to ensuring that governments continue to rollout and expand ART programmes.

What are TRIPS flexibilities?

TRIPS (Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights) flexibilities are legal mechanisms enabling member states to express specific needs in terms of public health, in spite of the patent protection in force.

Results from three years of advocacy

Through VNP+’s advocacy in Vietnam:

  • A generic version of the new HIV medicine Dolutegravir became available and has been added as first line treatment to Vietnam’s HIV treatment program
  • A fix dose combination of Tenofovir, Lamivudine and Dolutegravir is now available in Vietnam and has been added to the national HIV treatment guidelines
  • As a result of regular meetings with National Office of Intellectual Property, VNP+ now has a good working relationship with them. This has helped VNP+ in accessing information early on patent applications filed by pharmaceutical companies and in determining whether or not an opposition should be filed.

Through MGP’s advocacy in Myanmar:

  • All generic versions produced in India of new hepatitis C drugs are now available
  • Costs for these generic drugs reduced from 16 to 9 USD per tablet. Initially the patented original drug cost around 140 USD per tablet in Asian countries

Through Ashar Alo Society’s advocacy in Bangladesh:

  • 20 people living with HIV were trained as community leaders to advocate for access to affordable medicine. They train other people living with HIV on intellectual property and access to affordable medicine
  • As a result, these community leaders actively participate in discussions with pharmaceutical companies and governments on intellectual property and access to medicines
  • A brochure was developed with information on intellectual property, trade and access to medicines. About 5000 copies were printed and distributed.

Over 600 people trained
More than 600 people with HIV were trained on Intellectual Property practices and access to medicines in the three countries. With this knowledge they created awareness about the harmful impacts of Intellectual Property and trade in peer education and support group meetings. They have developed training materials in their own languages on Intellectual Property and access to medication. These materials will be used in future trainings in Vietnam and Myanmar.

Challenging intellectual patent barriers programme

This advocacy project has been implemented under the Challenging Intellectual Property Barriers programme funded by Aidsfonds, aiming to increase access to affordable medicine for people living with HIV. Seven projects supported civil society organisations in Bangladesh, Indonesia, Kenya, Mozambique, Myanmar, South Africa, Uganda, Ukraine, Vietnam and Zimbabwe, in holding their governments accountable for access to essential medicines and lowering costs of pharmaceuticals.


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This project is part of Challenging Intellectual Property Barriers to Ensure Access to Treatment for PLHIV uses cookies to offer the best website experience possible and to anonymously analyze website behaviour. More information.