Using TRIPS Flexibilities to promote access to medicines for PLHIV in Kenya and Uganda

Using TRIPS Flexibilities to promote access to medicines for PLHIV in Kenya and Uganda


Both Kenya and Uganda are countries with high HIV prevalence rates, estimated at 5.7% and 7.1% respectively. This translates to a high number of PHLIV within these regions in need of access to antiretroviral drugs. Access to better antiretroviral (ARV) drugs in both Kenya and Uganda has been a challenge mostly due to restrictive intellectual property regime and non-exploitation of TRIPS flexibilities.
This project will seek to build consensus and empower civil society organizations to advocate for the removal of intellectual property barriers to access to essential and better antiretroviral drugs for PLHIV in Kenya and Uganda. Relatedly, the project will empower CSOs to advocate for implementation of the EAC Regional Intellectual Property Policy on the Utilization of Public Health-Related WTO-TRIPS Flexibilities and the Approximation of National Intellectual Property Legislation. This Policy guides EAC Partner States on how their national intellectual property legislation must be adjusted in order to enable them to fully utilize the Public Health-related WTO-TRIPS Flexibilities.
The project will be implemented through a combination of the technical expertise of the two organizations, CEHURD and KELIN, and mobilization and empowerment of civil society organizations and communities of people living with HIV.

Project details

Time frame
01 January 2018 - 31 December 2021
€ 210,000
Active in
Kenya, Uganda


The proposed project will empower communities of PLHIV to be at the forefront in demanding for the exploitation of TRIPS flexibilities to ensure there is access to essential, better and improved medicines. The project will also provide a platform for evidenced-based research on current practices and policies impacting exploitation of TRIPS flexibilities in Kenya and Uganda. Relatedly, the project will use the court system through public interest litigation for removal of the identified intellectual property barriers. Communities of PLHIV will be strengthened to advocate for access to medicines both at the national level and regional level (especially through use of the opportunity presented by the EAC Regional Intellectual Property Policy).

Therefore, the health of PLHIV will greatly be improved as a result of these initiatives that will empower and strengthen communities, and contribute towards improving the access to medicines systems.

Community groups

In addressing intellectual property barriers to access to medicines, and advocating for exploitation of TRIPS flexibilities in Kenya and Uganda, this project will contribute towards ensuring that people who have been diagnosed with HIV have access to quality treatment and care. Access to HIV treatment and care prevents illnesses and death among people living with HIV thereby contributing to the second 90 of the UNAIDS target of 90% of people with diagnosed HIV infection receive sustained ART treatment by 2020. It is anticipated that 110 people will be engaged directly in trainings and dialogues, with 5,000 people reached directly through assorted IEC materials. Further, in addressing legal, policy and practice barriers on access to medicines, our project has the potential to ensure that 1.6 million people living with HIV in Kenya and 1.4 million people living with HIV in Uganda are positively impacted.


Health systems in East African Community continue to bear heavy burden of diseases like HIV, Tuberculosis and Malaria. Majority of people from these countries can barely afford to access essential medicines. A low domestic production of pharmaceutical products within the region and non-willingness of local governments to commit adequate resources continue to frustrate availability of essential medicines to communities in need. Intellectual property rights protecting essential medicines have to a large extent profited few pharmaceutical companies and created monopolies over manufacturing and distribution of essential medicines. The TRIPS Agreement has attempted to redress this monopoly by providing for flexibilities in which intellectual property rights in pharmaceutical products can be exploited in public interest.
Implementation will be in both Uganda and Kenya which provide useful case studies, with Kenya being a Middle Income country which is required to comply with the TRIPS provisions while Uganda is a Least Developed Country which is entitled to the 2021 transitional period provided for by the TRIPS Agreement. The different level of obligations between the countries despite their commitment under the same regional organization, EAC, presents a useful learning and experience sharing opportunity.

Despite the high demand for essential medicines, there is very little evidence that East Africa Community countries are exploiting these flexibilities to improve access to essential medicines. Additionally, there is very little evidence that stakeholders in the region are dialoguing on the issues which affect the use of flexibilities to promote access to pharmaceuticals. This means that while efforts may be going on to promote the use of trips flexibilities, the isolated manner in which they are being implemented has minimized their ability to create an impact both within their countries and their regions. According to the High-Level Panel convened to advise the UN Secretary-General on improving access to medicines, the Doha Declaration confirms that the TRIPS flexibilities are not exceptions, but rather, a fundamental part of the TRIPS machinery. Yet, numerous incoherencies and troubling practices have obstructed sovereign freedom of governments in using flexibilities to promote public health. This is true for both Kenya and Uganda. SDG Goal 3 on the other hand obliges government to provide for access to affordable essential medicines and vaccines, in accordance with the Doha Declaration on the TRIPS Agreement and Public Health.


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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.