Last week the AIDemocracy team braved the freezing rain to increase awareness around World AIDS Day. First Priti and I joined up with AIDS activists in front of the Wilson Building Offices of the mayor and city council of DC. The rally focused on AIDS in the district and was sponsored by DC Fights Back. We gathered to protest on behalf of the one thousand HIV+ individuals on the affordable housing wait list. Dozens joined in chants demanding that new Mayor Vincent Gray and City Council Chairman Kwame Brown commit to meeting the housing needs of HIV+ individuals in DC.
Activists were carrying a large red house representing the basic right to housing and Priti and I handed out red ribbons to the crowd. As we marched from Freedom Plaza to the Wilson building, we flooded the street, stopping traffic and getting a few honks and waves in solidarity. We left the red house on the steps of the Wilson Building as a little present for the Mayor, and began to march to the capital.
As we headed to the second part of the rally we kept ourselves amped despite the cold by chanting and singing. The second part of the rally took place at the White House gates and had a global focus. We headed over and met up with Patrick, Lisa, and Ashleigh. Health GAP and ACT Up Philadelphia organized a funeral for the 1.8 million who have died globally in the past year without access to AIDS treatment. Activists from Philadelphia had traveled by bus to join local activists in asking President Obama to keep his promise to increase foreign aid for AIDS.
“President Obama, you can be the president to start the end of the AIDS crisis if you just do what you promised when you ran for office,” implored Jose DeMarco of ACT Philadelphia. Despite promises and commitments to increase overseas support for AIDS, US funding has flat-lined and funding for AIDS treatment has decreased.
Media gathered to capture the rally interview the energetic crowd. Local theater groups performed a sketch about the shortage of AIDS treatment in Africa. We all grew solemn as two reverends led a service to commemorate those lost to AIDS without access to treatment. Activists and community members who have lost loved ones placed flowers on a casket to honor those who have died from AIDS without treatment.
Meanwhile, chapters were commemorating World AIDS. Here’s a snap shot of what was going on across the country.
- The Fresno State chapter organized a film screening with guest speaker and women’s studies professor, Melissa Knight. Following the film they discussed HIV/AIDS in local communities and abroad. They also tabled on campus and collected petition signatures to ask for more foreign aid for AIDS funding.
- The Global Health Network at George Washington University School of Public Health and Health Services passed out fliers and ribbons to class mates to increase awareness.
- Over 50 students and community members in south Bronx hosted their second annual World AIDS Day carnival. They screened the film SASA! and high school students played games that increased AIDS and STI awareness.
- The Swarthmore College chapter tabled outside of the campus dining hall to increase awareness. Students handed out ribbons and information sheets and let people know that it was World AIDS Day. They stopped everyone who walked in and out of the dining hall and got them to participate!
Overall, it was a great day in terms of increases awareness and acknowledging that there is still so much more to do to combat AIDS. Thanks to everyone here in DC and across the US for making it a success!