Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Over 1,500 AIDS Activists Protest at U.N. Special Session

NEW YORK - May 31 - On the 25th anniversary of the AIDS pandemic, thousands of people living with HIV/AIDS and activists from around the world are protesting today outside high-level United Nations meetings on HIV/AIDS. Expressing outrage that 15 million people have died from AIDS since the U.N. meetings in 2001, activists are demanding leaders implement science-based HIV prevention and universal access to AIDS treatment.

George W. Bush's lead negotiator at the 2001 U.N. conference on AIDS, Scott Evertz, told Reuters today that the Bush administration is reaching out to militant Islamic governments, to try to ensure the 2006 U.N. declaration backs abstinence and fidelity.

The diverse crowd of protesters, including members of civil society delegations attending the U.N. meetings and many East Coast AIDS service organizations, will take part in a rally emceed by actress Rosie Perez. Perez says, "People living with HIV have a right to the treatment they need and all communities have a right to effective prevention. It is enraging that despite leaders' promises to provide this, we still have to take to the streets to demand action on these issues."

Prominent AIDS activists from five continents are speaking at the rally and highlighted the urgent need for vastly scaled-up access to affordable HIV treatment and care programs. "There is broad international consensus that we need to commit to 10 million people on treatment by 2010 and that we need major new funding plans to do that. It is inexcusable that some governments are currently resisting this goal," says Sipho Mthathi of the Treatment Access Campaign.

Activists are also focused on the need for prevention strategies, including female and male condoms and harm reduction programs, that are responsive to women, drug-users, men who have sex with men, sex workers, and other vulnerable populations. They are criticizing governments for neglecting these groups and accusing the U.S. government of enacting highly-politicized and ineffective prevention policies.

This unique protest is bringing out people from as close as New York's five boroughs and as far as Indonesia. "We need a real action plan and funding promises to get drugs into bodies and prevention tools to the people," states Waheedah Shabazz-El of ACTUP Philadelphia.


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