WASHINGTON - July 14 - On the heels of protest at International AIDS Conference, AIDS activists issue call for mass participation in permitted march on the opening afternoon of the convention, from Union Square to Madison Square Garden.
Thousand of people with HIV/AIDS and their supporters are issuing a call for mass participation to join with the Still We Rise Coaltion and the Hip Hop Summit Action Network in a march on the opening day of the Republican National Convention in New York, citing the role of Federal policies on medical care, treatment access, HIV prevention, housing, immigration, welfare and criminal justice issues in determining the course of the epidemic in the US and worldwide.
"This week, my brothers and sisters are raising their voices in Thailand, calling for a change to US policies that tie our hands in fighting this epidemic. There's been a mounting death toll through every presidential administration while we continue to block funding for needle exchange or put up roadblocks to getting AIDS drugs to poor nations" said Jose de Marco of ACT UP Philadelphia and CHAMP. "Believe me, those of us who continue to bury our friends and loved ones, here and around the world, know what it takes to stop this epidemic. If you¹re running around saying stuff like condoms don't work, or cutting funds for the programs our lives depend upon, you're dreaming if you think you are fighting AIDS. And I'm coming with thousands of my best friends to make that clear in New York City on August 30."
Long, hot summer: DC, Bangkok, Philly, NYC:
On May 20, 100 people were arrested at the Capitol, Washington DC, after over 1000 AIDS activists marched on the Republican and Democratic party headquarters (see www.champnetwork.org/may20)
This week, people with AIDS and their supporters around the world disrupted sessions at the International AIDS Conference in Bangkok, Thailand, calling for the United States to release full funding for the Global Fund for AIDS, TB and Malaria; cease misinformation and funding restrictions on condoms and family planning; and to allow federal funds to purchase low-cost generic medication for AIDS programs in poor nations. (see www.healthgap.org)
Members of ACT UP Philadelphia will rally Thursday, July 15 at the annual conference of the NAACP, claiming that President Bush is "AWOL on AIDS!" and demanding that Senator Kerry takes a firm and public stand on his AIDS policies.
"The president bought a spotlight with a million dollar contribution to an African American church here several weeks ago," explained ACT UP's de Marco, "but he will not stand, as every president in modern history has, in front of the 500,000 member organization that has been a historical voice for the rights of African American people in this nation. He's AWOL at the NAACP just like he is AWOL on AIDS, pledging $20 million to close the gap in the AIDS Drug Assistance Program when we need $219 million! The Institute of Medicine gave our elected leaders a report that verifies what we're dealing with every day in our neighborhoods -- at least 59,000 people here in the US can¹t get stable access to life-saving AIDS drugs."
The activists also pointed to President Bush's promotion of a constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage as an indication of misplaced priorities.
"We've got gay kids getting infected every day with this virus because they get abstinence-only-until-marriage stuff in schools that says nothing to them or their struggles for acceptance in a biased society," added Louis Jones of the New York City AIDS Housing Network, a member of the Still We Rise coalition planning events during the Republican and Democratic National Conventions. "We'll shout it out from Thailand to Times Square: People with AIDS need treatment, and every person needs honest education and tools like condoms and clean needles, and a place to live with dignity and respect, if we're really going to end an epidemic that feeds on poverty and hate."
March on New York: Still We Rise is jointly sponsored by the Hip Hop Action Summit Network (HSAN) and the Still We Rise Coalition. Tentative speakers include: P. Diddy, Russell Simmons, Louie Jones (New York City AIDS Housing Network Board member), Alicia Keyes, LL Cool J, Wanda Imasuen (FUREE Steering Committee Member), Jay Z and Dr. Benjamin Chavis (Executive Director of HSAN).
Full details on the march can be found at: www.stillwerise.org . The AIDS community's recommendations for the presidential candidates are posted at www.aidsvote.org
AIDSvote.org has requested statements on these issues from the candidates; they have posted the reply from Sen. Kerry but have not received any statement from the Bush campaign.