FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE DATE: September 20, 2010
AIDS Activists at World Summit in NYC Protest Obama for “Broken Promises that Kill”
Group demands funding for universal access to treatment for AIDS to fight pandemic
New York, NY – Bearing thousands of empty pill bottles symbolizing the lack of access to medication and giant helium balloons bearing the faces of President Obama and G8 leaders, dozens of people held a boisterous protest on the UN Millennium Development Goals Summit. As world leaders inside the summit debated progress on the anti-poverty program they created 5 years ago, the activists – many living with HIV/AIDS – denounced politicians, especially President Obama, for failing to meet the Millennium Development Goal of universal access to lifesaving AIDS treatment by 2010.
“President Obama talks a good game about ending AIDS, but his talk doesn’t change the reality that more people around the world are going to die because he is not living up to his global AIDS funding campaign commitment,” said Housing Works President and CEO Charles King.
Organizers highlighted the fact that each year AIDS kills two million people –including 60,000 mothers – and has killed 25 million people since the early 1980s. Despite world leaders’ pledge to provide universal access to treatment by 2010, only a third of the 15 million people who need AIDS drugs currently get them. The activists called on President Obama to live up to his campaign promises by pledging $50 billion for 5 years to fight global AIDS and called on the administration to make a bold pledge of $6 billion over 3 years for the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria.
According to the protestors, promises to fund the fight against AIDS were broken when The Group of Eight (G8) leading wealthy nations, the European Commission and other donor governments flat-funded AIDS programs for developing nations between 2008 and 2009 (providing $7.7 billion for AIDS relief in 2008, compared with $7.6 billion in 2009). President Obama proposed that the US contribution to global AIDS increase by 2% from 2010 to 2011, an amount significantly less than what he pledged during his campaign and roughly a quarter of the rate of inflation in Africa.
“This lack of funding will harm or even reverse incredible progress made fighting the AIDS pandemic,” said Matthew Kavanagh of Health GAP. “At a time when we are seeing huge success in HIV prevention and treatment, we must scale up, not flatline. With adequate funding, millions of lives could be saved with HIV treatment, and tens of millions of new infections could be prevented. Mother-to-child transmission of HIV could be virtually eliminated.”
Studies are now proving that greater access to HIV treatment reduces HIV transmission–with one study of African couples showing a 92% reduction in transmission if the HIV+person is on ARVs. Treatment also allows people to live full lives, to hold jobs and care for their children.
“Universal Access to treatment has always been important from a moral, human rights perspective,” said Jennifer Flynn, Managing Director of Health GAP. “Now we have the evidence that it is also one of our best tools for stopping the HIV epidemic. We have treatments that work, not only at saving lives but also at preventing the spread of HIV. Now we need the political will to deliver the funding.”
Flat lining in funding for global AIDS is already meaning people who were promised medication are being told there is no medicine available, and are being told to wait in line. This has been documented and confirmed in Uganda, Nigeria and Zambia, with other nations likely to follow suit.
Organizers of the protest pointed to a world financial transaction tax as one way to create revenue. The proposal would levy a .005% tax on currency transactions and would raise $33 billion a year for global health and climate change. They encouraged President Obama to support the proposal.
“Many AIDS activists worked hard to elect Barack Obama because he promised to fully fund the fight against AIDS,” said Kavanagh. “In this election season, we’re not about political parties – we’re about keeping people alive. We want to push President Obama to keep his amazing campaign promises. We don’t want him to be the president who chose not to defeat AIDS when it was possible – we want him to be the president who put us on track to defeat AIDS.”
This protest part of a Global Week of Action, including a simultaneous protest in Philadelphia, to demand full funding for global AIDS, as called for by South Africa’s Treatment Action Campaign.
Recently, these groups organized massive protests at the International AIDS Conference in Vienna http://takeanumber.org/act/
Click here for an overview of the campaign: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R2xPWj7K1kY