An art handler places pills for the art installation by British artist Damien Hirst in the new Brandhorst modern art museum in Munich, May 6, 2009.
Alexandra Beier / Reuters

Mary-Jane Matsolo, wearing tight jeans, gold high-heeled sandals, and a white t-shirt with navy blue block letters reading “HIV Positive,” strides to the front of the Johannesburg conference room. “I’m the one who will make you understand patent laws and intellectual property rights,” she says to the dozen people gathered before her. “It’s what I do, and I do it very well.”

At Matsolo’s prompting, everyone takes turns explaining why they are here. One after another, advocates for persons with mental illness, diabetes, epilepsy, and other diseases bitterly describe how the patients they represent—and sometimes even

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