Activists, Legislators, Actor Danny Glover Rally at U.S. Capitol for Increased International HIV/AIDS Funding
Actor Danny Glover, lawmakers, religious leaders and hundreds of activists yesterday afternoon gathered on the west lawn of the Capitol in Washington, D.C., to demand that Congress amend President Bush's emergency supplemental budget request to include an additional $750 million for the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria (Susannah Hunter, Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 4/10). They also called on Congress to approve an additional $2.5 billion for international HIV/AIDS programs for the fiscal year 2003 budget and to demand that the World Bank and International Monetary Fund cancel all debt owed by developing nations to free up money that could be spent on HIV/AIDS programs (Rally release, 4/4). The rally, which was co-sponsored by ACT UP/New York, ACT UP/Philadelphia, Artists for a New South Africa, Health GAP and Jubilee USA, featured speeches by ANSA founder Glover and Reps. Barbara Lee (D-Calif.), John Conyers (D-Mich.) and Jim Leach (R-Iowa). "AIDS has become a manageable disease for many people with HIV who are fortunate enough to live in the United States and other wealthy countries. But there are 36 million of our brothers and sisters on the other side of that divide -- in Africa, Asia and Latin America -- who are dying needlessly. We cannot accept that, so we stand here together, calling for the resources to fight AIDS around the world," Glover said. "Increased funding for programs to fight HIV/AIDS in the international community also benefits our nation," Lee said, adding that the AIDS epidemic "has become a pressing national security issue as well as a moral and humanitarian crisis" (Hunter, Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 4/10). Hyde said, "The prospect of whole villages and communities in parts of remote Africa losing all of the adults and being composed of children is something out of a nightmare" (Wilson, "Morning Edition," NPR, 4/11).
'Time Is Up'
Activists held up a giant alarm clock, representing the message that "'time is up' for congressional action to stop the global AIDS catastrophe" (Rally release, 4/4). Activists also tolled a bell once every 11 seconds, the frequency of AIDS-related deaths worldwide. Demanding additional U.S. funding for international HIV/AIDS program is "an essential first step," Cesar Portillo, chief of public affairs for the AIDS Healthcare Foundation, said, adding that he hoped the rally conveyed to Congress that funding of prevention programs alone is "not enough" without funding treatment programs as well. HIV-positive members of ACT UP/Philadelphia held up giant masks of human faces, constructed to represent "voiceless" HIV-positive people worldwide, as a way to "bring those people's voices to Congress," according to Julie Davids of ACT UP/Philadelphia. Rabbi David Saperstein of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism compared the HIV/AIDS crisis to the Holocaust, which he said demonstrates the "terrible price paid when men and women stand idly by while innocents are victimized or suffer. He added that while the HIV/AIDS crisis is a "different kind of disaster," it is nonetheless a disaster of "awesome dimension" (Hunter, Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 4/10). The rally, titled "A Day of Hope: Fight AIDS in Africa and Worldwide," came in advance of the congressional vote on Bush's emergency measure, which mainly appropriates money to finance defense expenditures. Congress is expected to begin marking up the measure during the last week of April (Rally release, 4/4). The NPR "Morning Edition" segment, featuring commentary on the issue by Richard Lang, professor of international health at Boston University, and Paul Zeitz of the Global AIDS Alliance, will be available in RealPlayer Audio online after noon ET ("Morning Edition," NPR, 4/11).