President Obama lifted the travel ban in 2009, and now the IAC is coming back to the U.S. and will be held July 22-27 in Washington, D.C. ACT UP (AIDS Coalition To Unleash Power) Philadelphia will be there with other activists to welcome the IAC back to the U.S., in dramatic ACT UP fashion, of course.
ACT UP Philly and dozens of other organizations are convening a historic and massive protest on July 24, entitled “We Can End AIDS Mobilization for Economic Justice and Human Rights.” The mobilization was developed to draw attention to new studies, including HIV cure research, that have revealed that with only modest increases in funding, the world could truly see the end of the AIDS pandemic within 30 years.
The mobilization consists of five different marches, each with a distinct focus on what is needed to end AIDS: No. 1) Fight pharmaceutical greed, ensure HIV treatment for all; No. 2) Create a Robin Hood tax on Wall Street to fund the end of AIDS; No. 3) Stop the war on women; No. 4) Promote and fully fund sound policies built on science, not ideology; and No. 5) Protect human rights and support harm reduction.
ACT UP Philly will bring 500 people to participate in the human rights and harm reduction march. This march will highlight the unity among people of color, LGBTQ people, drug users, sex workers and immigrants who bear the biggest impact of HIV and HIV-related stigma. The march will focus on demanding an end to the human-rights abuses that fuel HIV at home and abroad, including criminalization of people with and at risk for HIV; the war on drugs, mass imprisonment and privatization of prisons; and economic, political and social marginalization of people with and at risk for HIV, including the corrosive influence of corporate money since Citizens United [a landmark Supreme Court decision that allowed unlimited political spending by corporations].
Human-rights themes are incorporated in all of the five marches. Ending AIDS will take more than just increased funding: It will require attacking the underlying racial, economic and social injustices that fuel HIV.
On human rights there is still much work to be done. Lifting of the travel ban was a great thing, but there are still many current/former sex workers and drug users who will be refused visas to travel here. Here in Philly, we need to move forward with plans to open the first “housing first” program for people with HIV, but we desperately need even more HIV/AIDS housing. And we need to promote education, not incarceration. Evidence clearly shows that housing and decarceration are crucial to HIV prevention and treatment.
In the 22 years since the last International AIDS Conference was held in the U.S., we have learned a lot about HIV: how to treat it, how to prevent it and even — in one case — how to cure it. This IAC will mark a turning point in the history of HIV/AIDS. Will we move forward to end AIDS in our lifetime? Or will we choose austerity and scapegoat measures that reverse our hope of ending AIDS? The choice is up to our elected officials, but it is our lives that depend on it.
John Barbieri, Antonio Davis and Che Gossett of ACT UP Philly authored this op-ed. To join ACT UP Philly in D.C., go to http://bit.ly/actup2dc or email firstname.lastname@example.org. For more information about We Can End AIDS, go to www.wecanendaids.org