Lucy Bannister from Manchester Stop AIDS, writes about her experiences of this year’s Stop AIDS Day of Action…of silent flashmobs, helium balloons, lobbying with her MP, and champagne breakfasts!

On Tuesday 12th March Stop AIDS campaigners from all around the UK got up early and trekked down to London ready to take part in the National Day of Action. The day started bright and early outside the European Commission (EC) where, dressed as pharmaceutical executives, we made a toast to the EC for protecting our monopolies. The EC have been making it much harder for generic drug manufacturers to enter the markets, standing against less developed countries (LDCs) in their fight against TRIPS and stopping the development of a research and development treaty. Bravo EC!

Three Cheers to the EC for Protecting our Profits!

After a quick break to practise our singing we headed over to the Department of Business and Innovation ready to serenade Vince Cable, the Business Secretary. We sang to him about his love for ‘big pharma’ with witty lines such as ‘I love big pharma and I always will, my minds made up by the way that they feel’ (sing with tune of ‘Love is all around us’ – Wet Wet Wet). This really grabbed the attention of those heading to work, especially as a few of us had donned choir robes and Vince Cable masks!

Serenading Vince to the tune of ‘free trade is all around us…’

We then based ourselves outside the International Property office (IPO) asking them ‘what part of “Shall” don’t you understand?’ with lots of well thought out and catchy chants to make our point. Article 66.1 of the TRIPs agreement says that if LDCs request an extension on the time before they have to comply with TRIPs then the council ‘shall’ extend it. We want this extension to be until they graduate from being an LDC; however, the IPO have been supporting the EC’s argument that an extension should be finite and time bound. The noise we made even meant that Lotti was able to discuss our campaign with a representative from the office and arrange a meeting to discuss it further; result!

We then celebrated our success, ate some lunch and warmed up our cold feet in the office. We started blowing up lots of red balloons with helium ready for our final stunt for which we all headed to Big Ben, balloons in hand, silently lining up along the fence. After standing seriously staring out for a few minutes, confusing many passers-by and tourists we chanted ‘real promises not hot air’. We were aiming to ask the government to put in place a plan of action to reach our 15 by 15 target, to stop putting measures in place that make that target so much harder to reach and to stop making empty promises.

Lucy, on the left, standing in silent protest at the gates of Parliament


We attempted to take some lovely pictures on Abingdon Green with our banner and balloons; however the wind refused to play ball and made it very difficult to do so. Instead, we have some lovely pictures of us fighting with a banner that was determined to fly away. It was then time for many of us to go and meet our MPs. I believe that everyone had successful meetings and our MPs agreed to support our campaign and write to Cameron. Meanwhile, those without meetings collected lots of action cards asking the public to support our 15 by 15 campaign.

Finally, we headed to the pub to celebrate a hard day of campaigning with many successful actions. Drinks and chips all round, we ended the day with a great game of cereal box, after all, all good campaigners need to keep their flexibility up! I think we are all now ready for another term of action back at our Universities and geared up to ask our government, ‘Why stop now?’