Protesters Interrupt Thompson’s Speech to AIDS Conference About U.S. Global AIDS Programs
"Angry protesters invaded the stage and drowned out" HHS Secretary Tommy Thompson today as he attempted to deliver a speech at the XIV International AIDS Conference in Barcelona, Spain, Reuters/New York Times reports (Reuters/New York Times, 7/9). As Thompson began to speak about U.S. support of international AIDS programs, about 40 people climbed onto the stage, some of whom were waving placards that said, "Wanted: Bush and Thompson for murder and neglect of people with AIDS." Protesters shouting "Shame! Shame!" blocked the audience's view of Thompson (Ross, AP/Washington Post, 7/9). They "kept up a barrage of chants and whistles, making [Thompson's] words completely inaudible" (Reuters/New York Times, 7/9). Thompson then left the platform and held a news conference behind the auditorium, where he told reporters, "I understand that people are passionate about this and want to blame the United States. But the United States under President Bush has doubled the amount of resources it provides for the fight against AIDS." Critics have called President Bush's proposal last month to allocate $500 million over three years to prevent vertical HIV transmission in Africa and the Caribbean "grossly underfinanced," saying that he is "ignoring people already living with" HIV/AIDS. Many AIDS activists want the United States to contribute more than the $500 million it has already pledged to the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, the AP/Washington Post reports. Thompson said that protesters who "yell and scream" would "serve their cause much better ... if they would help other countries see the light." He added, "They can shout, but that doesn't deter me or the president one bit" (AP/Washington Post, 7/9).
A Webcast of highlight's of Thompson's speech and press conference is available online.
Other highlights from today's sessions are also available online.