As FDA Prepares to Concede to Radical Right with New, Misleading Condom Label, 29 of People with HIV and Youth Arrested at White House in Makeshift Graveyard
Traveling to the capital from 21 states, they created a graphic memorial to those who will lose their lives due to lack of condoms, sterile needles & HIV-prevention education.
(11/7/2005, Washington, DC) Hundreds of people from across the country marched on November 7 at 11:30 am, behind a giant Bush puppet whose strings were pulled by representatives of powerful fundamentalist right-wing organizations, delivering "golden funeral urn awards" to HIV prevention foes. The march traced the path of influence of radical right groups that have shaped Bush Administration policies on sex education, needle exchange, and global AIDS, placing ideology and Christian fundamentalism over sound public health. It conclueded with 29 arrests at a makeshift graveyard at the White House.
As a concrete example of concessions to radical-right forces, event sponsors have learned that new language for condom labels will likely be released this week. The language will state that condoms may not completely protect against human papilloma virus (HPV). Health leaders fear that such complex information will eclipse the proven effectiveness of condoms against HIV, a far more dangerous virus, and reduce rates of condom use. (Furthermore, new research has shown that condoms, used correctly and consistently, offer protection against HPV itself. See July 2005 HHS Watch: http://www.champnetwork.org/index.php?name=news ).
"Our dedication to fighting for accurate HIV prevention has redoubled with the news that this very week, FDA will likely release new labels for condoms, long a goal of right-wing groups that oppose their use," said Julie Davids, Executive Director of Community HIV/AIDS Mobilization Project (CHAMP). "The groups that pushed for this are the very same ones opposing a new HPV vaccine that could virtually eliminate cervical and anal cancers within a generation, solely because they see it as anti-abstinence to vaccinate youth for something that can be sexually transmitted. They are convinced that marriage is the only vaccine that is needed against HPV, HIV and all other STDs worldwide."
During the mock awards, protesters distributed a map that documents the office locations and damaging statements made by Concerned Women For America, Eagle Forum, Family Research Council, Heritage Foundation, Medical Institute for Sexual Health and Traditional Values Coalition, as well as Bush's Office of the Global AIDS Coordinator and the White House . Map available at: www.champnetwork.org/index.php?name=N7
Monday's participants have united in their opposition to attacks on HIV prevention abroad as well as in the U.S., noting that Bush's PEPFAR (Presidential Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief) program has placed strict limits on prevention tools and education--limits that impact not only PEPFAR's 15 focus countries but over 100 nations worldwide receiving some U.S. financial support. Restrictions in these programs create higher risk for women, fast becoming the majority of the epidemic worldwide. So, too, does a recent U.S. ban on funding for groups that deliver HIV prevention to sex workers without explicitly pledging their opposition to such work.
Recent studies document HIV infection rates of 46% in African American men who have sex with men in the U.S. New data also suggest that one in seven African-American men in Washington D.C. are living with HIV.
"Bush and his fundamentalist colleagues want to limit access to prevention education and tools to everyone," said Jose de Marco, a black gay man living with HIV and member of ACT UP Philadelphia. "But in this country, it's my community that is bearing the brunt the most, and I'm convinced they care more about castigating us for our lives than saving them."
In a separate action at 8:30 am, a dozen AIDS activists from Housing Works chained themselves to a monument to heterosexual marriage inside the offices of the ultra-right, homophobic Family Research Council. Activists were protesting the FRC's ardent advocacy of abstinence-only education. While abstinence does work to prevent HIV infection, education about it only focuses on abstinence and emphasises the failure rates of programs using condoms and clean needles. Four dozen activists formed a walking picket inside the FRC bookstore until police arrived an hour later.The march to the White House and die-in was sponsored by ACT UP Philadelphia, ACT UP New York, Community HIV/AIDS Mobilization Project (CHAMP), Health GAP, and Student Global AIDS Campaign, is an independent affinity action occurring at the time of the Campaign to End AIDS mobilization in Washington DC. For more information on C2EA, see www.c2ea.org