Keynote address at the trilateral WIPO, WHO & WTO symposium

3 February 2023
Left in the photo: (L-R) second from the left Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus WHO DG,  WIPO DG Daren Tang, WTO DG Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala.  Right in the photo: Prof Salim Abdool Karim in discussion following his keynote address at the  WHO, WIPO & WTO trilateral symposium held in Geneva


Professor Salim Abdool Karim, Director of CAPRISA delivered the keynote address at the World Health Organization (WHO), World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) and the World Trade Organization (WTO) Joint Technical Symposium held in Geneva on 16 December 2022

The trilateral symposium was opened by WIPO Director General Daren Tang, WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus and WTO Director-General Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala. The DGs raised the need to leverage lessons learned during the first three years of the COVID-19 pandemic and to build on and expand the cooperation that has emerged from this health crisis. “Despite all the gains we have made in the past three years, severe global inequities still hamper the response,” said Director-General Tedros.

In his presentation titled: “Covid-19:  Preparing for the next pandemic wave”, Abdool Karim highlighted notable Covid-19 scientific developments and discoveries made as many of the world’s researchers pivoted to Covid-19. Vaccines, diagnostics and treatments became available in record time but their accessibility was grossly inequitable as a result principally of IP protection by corporates. Lack of access to vaccines and treatments was a major impediment in mitigating the pandemic and saving lives.  

A key lesson from HIV for Covid-19, Abdool Karim said was the importance of mutual interdependence & shared responsibility. “An IP solution was found to share the benefits of ARVs.  Markets were segmented and voluntary licences offered to generic manufacturers - Truvada costs $33 a pill in the USA but 33 cents in South Africa,” he said. “We need to learn these lessons to do better in preparing for the next pandemic.”