AIDS Healthcare Foundation Hopes March Will Reignite AIDS Activism
More than 2,000 HIV/AIDS activists from around the world gathered at Washington Monument on Sunday, July 22, for the AIDS Healthcare Foundation’s "Keep the Promise on HIV/AIDS" rally and march - prior to the opening ceremonies of the XIX International AIDS Conference.
About eight hundred AHF-sponsored advocates made their way to Washington to take part in the march and let their voices be heard on issues such as national HIV/AIDS access, including the U.S. AIDS Drug Assistance Program (ADAP) waiting lists. Budgets cuts have left nearly 2,000 Americans in 9 states on waiting lists to receive potentially lifesaving AIDS medications.
"It was so moving to have all of these people pouring into Union Station. The rally on the mall was an expression of tremendous unity," said Executive Director of AHF Michael Weinstein. "I believe this is a rebirth of AIDS activism. This is really a tribute to the grassroots movement that exists. I’m proud to say that Florida had more representatives than any other state."
Weinstein said he hopes to continue the activism beyond this weekend’s march. He already has a regional march planned in October in Atlanta.
"The South is the fastest growing region in the country," he said. "It also has the longest ADAP waiting lists, smallest percentage of [HIV patients] in care, and the latest to get diagnosed."
Weinstein then blasted President Obama and his response to the AIDS crisis.
"There is a strong sentiment that the Obama administration hasn’t had the proper response to AIDS," he said. "He’s not providing leadership, instead he’s retreating."
In fact, Weinstein believes President George W. Bush was better on AIDS than Obama has been.
"There were no waiting lists for up to 10,000 people under the Bush administration," he said and noted that Bush created a Global AIDS Initiative. "There is widespread discontent with the way Obama has been handling this issue."