Peaceful Protest Spotlights Strong Passion in AIDS Fight
Chants, songs and shouts comprised a chaotic but peaceful protest to bring awareness to the need for funding and research in the fight against AIDS. The march, which drew protestors from around the world Wednesday morning, coincided with the opening day of the 2011 U.N. High Level Meeting on AIDS.
The marchers converged on Bryant Park, and then weaved their way through midtown Manhattan to Dag Hammarskjold Plaza at the United Nations Building, where they called on leaders to stand behind funding commitments for AIDS.
“The lives of the people are not negotiable. Our lives are at risk,” said Julio Cesar Aguilera Hurtado, an HIV-positive activist from Bolivia. “Medication is very expensive. If our governments don’t lobby for that dough to reach our country, our people will die.”
Aguilera, the general program director of a Bolivian AIDS advocacy group, held a sign that read: “Treatment and prevention for all, including men who have sex with men and drug users.”
The crowd of protesters included families with children, gay couples and religious leaders, some HIV-positive and some not. They hoisted a giant balloon calling on G-8 leaders to “Fund AIDS Now!” and shook homemade noisemakers.
Emmaia Gelman brought her twin daughters to the march that her partner helped to organize, because they believe government inaction inhibits access to medication for many people around the world.
She hopes their toddler-aged daughters will see a world without AIDS in their lifetime.
“It better take a lot less (time) than that,” Gelman said. “Even if people are irresponsible and slow, and choose politics over lives, it’s still within our grasp.”
The rapper, Bryan Fleury, 45, from West Springfield, Mass., focuses his efforts on promoting safe sex and access to education about AIDS-prevention methods.
Inspired by his “condom sense,” he enjoys rhyming about AIDS education. He was hard to miss in a hat decorated with condoms collected from around the world.
During the march, Fleury broke out into freestyle: “This is not a fiction; it’s a matter of fact,” he rapped. “Condom sense is what we lack.”
The diversity of the crowd underscored the reality that AIDS touches people in every walk of life.
The Rev. Lisandro Orlo of the Argentinian Lutheran Church, one of several religious leaders at the march, has been working on human rights for years.
“It’s not the virus that brings us to New York,” Orlo said. “It’s the wounded dignity of the people who live with HIV.”
and CARLA PINEDA