Goodness me. What a couple of days. And the conference hasn’t even started yet!
Today, in the sweltering heat, I joined activists from Housing Works for an action at Capitol Hill to highlight how close we are to ending the pandemic, if only we had the political will. A team of activists erected metal tripods and chained themselves to each pole, whilst two climbers hoisted a banner up from the top of them. It wasn’t long before swarms of police arrived at the scene, as activists chanted “tax the rich, save the poor” and “clean needles, save lives”. With only a few days to go before the International AIDS Conference begins in DC, Housing Works was demanding that Congress and the Obama administration take the actions needed to end AIDS now.
“The point of this action is to call attention to the reality of the fact that we can end AIDS but won’t unless we take the politics out of AIDS and generate the will to do what needs to be done,” says Housing Works CEO Charles King.
8 activists were eventually arrested, as well as one unlucky photographer from the Washington Post. Shortly before his arrest as several news crews looked on, Larry Bryant who is HIV positive said, “The number of people getting arrested isn’t what should be in the headlines. It should be that needle exchanges and housing for people with AIDS saves lives”.
Across town the Youth Pre-Conference also kicked off today, and Rachel and Phindi joined 200 other young people from across the world to learn and share skills in preparation for the main conference. More to come from them tomorrow on that!
Excitingly our plans for youth activism at the conference also moved a step forward today, with the arrival of some shiny new materials! Working closely with the Student Global AIDS Campaign we are aiming to bridge the gap between some of the more experienced activists, and the hundreds of young people who will attend the conference. Earlier in the year Michel Sidebe, Executive Director of UNAIDS, called out for young people to take up the torch of activism. And we plan to deliver just that. With daily planned activism meetings, a banner making bash, outreach in the wider DC area, and even activism scorecards – we aim to give young people the skills, information and inspiration to get involved in actions and activism here and when they get back to their own communities.
Late last night (continuing into tonight for unconventional décor expert Rachel) we undertook some extreme banner painting. On the pavement, outside the hotel, in the pitch black, with one torch (bought for us by a man on holiday from Pakistan as his daughter helped paint!)… the youth revolution won’t wait for daylight.
So what do we want? To mobilise 500 young people to attend the We Can End AIDS mobilization on Tuesday 24th July – joining the Pharmaceutical Greed and Unjust Trade policy branch. Let’s hope we can do it! Wish us luck… it’s going to be a hectic, eventful, and sleep deprived few days!
That’s all for now kids.