Hundreds of College Students Rally in Boston to Urge Congress to Increase U.S. Contribution to Global AIDS Fund
About 400 students rallied yesterday in Boston's City Hall Plaza to urge the United States to increase its contribution to the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, the Boston Globe reports. Students from "dozens of universities" on the East Coast attended the rally -- organized by the Student Global AIDS Campaign, a network of students from more than 200 universities and high schools who are committed to fighting HIV/AIDS -- and heard from speakers ranging from Harvard University professors to former Miss Universe Mpule Kwelagobe of Botswana. Ben Wikler, a Harvard junior who organized the group, said that three things prompted the rally: the creation of the global fund, rock star Bono's "globe-trotting politicking" on behalf of people with HIV/AIDS and "the fact that we suddenly found out that half of our generation (in parts of Africa) is going to die from [HIV/AIDS]." The students specifically called on Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) to "demand" that the government increase its $300 million contribution to the global fund to $2.5 billion.
Halting State Budget Cuts
The students also urged Massachusetts state lawmakers not to cut nearly $10 million for HIV/AIDS prevention, counseling and testing from the state budget (Belkin, Boston Globe, 4/29). The Massachusetts HIV/AIDS Bureau's budget was cut 20% this year to $41 million, leading the agency to curb testing and counseling services. State lawmakers have proposed cutting another 20% next year, which would bring the agency's budget to $33 million. On Saturday, members of Boston's black and Latino communities spoke out against the proposed cuts at the AIDS Action Committee of Massachusetts' 19th annual Bayard Rustin breakfast at the John F. Kennedy Library. Michael Duffy, the new executive director of the AIDS Action Committee, urged attendees to rally Tuesday at the State House to demonstrate "dissatisfaction with the 'devastating' funding plan" to reduce the HIV/AIDS agency's budget for next year. He was joined by keynote speaker E. Denise Simmons, a Cambridge city councilor, who urged gays to help reduce the stigma attached to AIDS by revealing their sexual orientation. "We ask you to join us in being out and proud," she said. According to the state Department of Public Health, about half of the state's 13,298 people living with HIV or AIDS are black or Hispanic even though the two groups account for only 11% of the state's population, making minorities four times more likely than the general public to be HIV-positive (Russell, Boston Globe, 4/28).