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AIDS Activists March in Washington
by Bob Roehr

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The Campaign to End AIDS culminated its fall offensive with four days of education and lobbying in Washington, D.C., Nov. 5-8, while affinity groups carried out their own set of demonstrations and arrests.

Nine caravans had spent weeks winding their way from the corners of the nation, through every state and major media market, to energize the grass roots of AIDS advocacy and tell their stories to the American public of the need for increased domestic funding to address the rising caseload.

They took to the streets on Monday behind a giant puppet of President George W. Bush, whose strings on AIDS policy, they allege, are being pulled by fundamentalist right-wing organizations. The groups have pushed abstinence only HIV prevention program, and have undercut the use of condoms in federally funded programs both here and abroad.

A small group of activists chained themselves to statues of the American nuclear family in the lobby of the Family Research Council soon after the office opened in the morning.

But the main event came at noon as several hundred protesters rallied outside the building on K Street that houses Concerned Women for America ( CWA ) . They chanted 'AIDS prevention worldwide, anything less is genocide.'

'In Mumbai ( formally Bombay ) , fifty percent of the sex workers are infected with HIV/AIDS,' said Vineeta Gupta. Many of the girls are either abducted by or sold to a brothel at fourteen or younger. Groups like CWFA would eliminate AIDS education programs for such populations.

The marchers proceeded on to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. One organizer said, 'Make no mistake, inside this building behind us, people are taking lives every day' through policies that denigrate the effectiveness of condoms, and their failure to fund prevention activities that work.

'Much of the reason for this administration's failure to do better is buried deep in the bowels of a relationship with right wing pressure groups,' said. Mark McLaurin, director of federal affairs for the New York AIDS Coalition.

'It is an unhealthy codependent relationship with organizations like Concerned Women for America, the Traditional Values Coalition, and the latest pseudo-intellectual babble spewed forth from the Heritage Foundation that has left this President inexcusably AWOL from the fight against HIV/AIDS in this country,' he said.

'Today we serve notice that enough is enough. Today we make clear that we will no longer sit silently and allow ideology to trump public health principles. Today we declare that we will counter the right wing's campaign to increase AIDS with one of our own.

'When the only growth industry in this administration's budget is demonstrably ineffective right wing infrastructure development schemes masquerading as abstinence only until marriage programs, that's outrageous,' McLaurin declared.

'When this administration allows these same groups' hypocritical morality to dictate that it not fun the one prevention intervention the indisputably works—needle exchange—that my friends is an obscenity.'

Julie David, the executive director of CHAMP, announced an award to Bush 'in recognition of his role increasing the HIV/AIDS rate of infection and death in the US and globally by promoting and funding ineffective abstinence only prevention; for attacking international condom availability; and for leading a war against drug users instead of a war on drugs.'

Chanting 'Two, four, six, eight, AIDS prevention cannot wait,' and 'Youth need the truth, condoms save lives,' members of the group then crossed Pennsylvania Avenue and lay down on the sidewalk in front of the White House, creating a cemetery. Dozens were arrested.

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