Fire in the blood: Upsetting, poignant, infuriating

2014-11-07 11:00

Al Jazeera English

Friday, November 7, 8pm

A new Al Jazeera documentary called Fire in the Blood is exposing the way massive international pharmaceutical companies used restrictive patent laws to stop millions of people living with Aids and HIV from getting life-saving antiretrovirals.

People across Africa simply could not afford the US$25 a pill that was being charged for these drugs.

Some of the excuses made for not lowering the price was that African people would misuse these drugs, that they wouldn’t be compliant in terms of treatment, and that treating people in the developing world could cause the Aids virus to mutate and become resistant – thus causing Americans and Europeans to die.

In fact, Andrew Natsios from the United States Agency for International Development is shown going as far as to make the impossibly racist and ignorant statement that Africans would not be able to take their antiretrovirals correctly because “[they] do not know what watches and clocks are. They do not use Western means of telling time, they use the sun.”

The documentary follows anti-apartheid and Aids activist Zackie Achmat in his fight to get antiretrovirals to the developing world. Achmat refused to take the medication until the price was lowered so that everyone could afford them. It gives one a new sense of respect for this activist.

But Fire in the Blood is ultimately an infuriating and upsetting documentary. Upsetting because it shows the very worst of humanity – how privileged people in the West simply just didn’t give a damn about millions upon millions of people dying in Africa. This is compulsory watching.

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