Thursday, July 9, 2009

26 Activists Arrested in DC Capitol Protest

AIDS Activists Risk Arrest in Capitol Building
Demanding Promised Funding & Policy Changes

With a new HIV infection every 9 ½ minutes in the US, why are we bailing out the bankers and leaving people with HIV without?

Washington, DC— Dozens of AIDS activists from across the Northeast U.S. risked arrest today, staging a loud demonstration inside the Capitol Rotunda on the eve of key Congressional votes on appropriations for life-saving programs and one day before President Obama’s first trip to Africa since his election.

The activists decried the Obama administration’s failure to make good on a range of AIDS campaign promises including his pledge: to lift the federal ban on funding syringe exchange, to fully fund lifesaving global AIDS programs, and to fully fund AIDS housing programs in this year’s budget. The activists demanded Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and other Congressional leadership fix President Obama’s flawed budget proposal.

“HIV is not in recession,” said Omolola Adele-Oso of DC Fights Back. “So why are we bailing out the bankers with $9 trillion, but breaking promises to fund life-saving AIDS programs in the US and around the world at a fraction of that cost?”

Activists noted that despite campaign pledges to increase bilateral global AIDS (PEPFAR) funding by $1 billion a year and fully fund the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, TB and Malaria, the Administration’s budget proposal essentially flat-lines global AIDS funding. Unless President Obama and Congress keep their promise to fund their fair share of the Global Fund’s needed, for example, the Global Fund will have to cut billions of dollars worth of life saving grants.

The activists also denounced the administration’s failure to lift the ban on syringe exchange funding. “Thousands of people have died in the past decade because clean syringes aren’t available,” said Jose De Marco, an HIV+ member of ACT UP Philadelphia and Proyecto Sol Filadelphia. “President Obama, who many of us worked to elect, promised to follow the science and lift the federal funding ban on needle exchange, but his budget explicitly included the ban. Now it’s up to Congress to show real courage where the President has not.”

“We are here because we know that our friends, families, and communities are still dying,” said Larry Bryant of Housing Works. “From DC to California to Zambia people living with AIDS need Congress to act this week and need the administration to make good on its promises.”

Gustavo Pedroza, of the New York City AIDS Housing Network commented: "Housing is one of our most basic needs and a critical part of HIV treatment, care and prevention - without it, other strategies to fight HIV simply don't work. Given the rising cost of housing, President Obama's proposal to flat-fund federal AIDS housing programs will mean low-income people with HIV will lose their housing, not to mention longer waiting lists for a life-saving home."

News Reports - Police arrest 26 AIDS activists at Capitol protest - 07/09/2009
Rollcall - AIDS Activists Arrested After Shutting Down Capitol Rotunda- 07-09-2009

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