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Know Your Rights
Source: AM New York
Subject: Health Justice & Access
Type: Media Coverage

AIDS Activists Protest at UN Meeting

Hundreds converged near the United Nations Wednesday at a rally where AIDS activists (including Make the Road by Walking) took turns to say the Bush administration and other world leaders are not doing enough to fight and prevent the deadly disease.

Many at the rally, held at Dag Hammarskjold Plaza on First Avenue, wore blue "HIV-Positive" T-shirts to show solidarity, they say, for the 40 million living with AIDS globally.

Danielle McDonald, 59, a retiree who says she once abused drugs and now works at a rehab program, traveled by bus with a large group from Philadelphia to show her support.

"People are dying from HIV, more people are affected by it than you think, and there’s a lot of people that are walking around with HIV and they need the medication to save their lives," McDonald said.

Several held up banners, while many displayed hand-held signs warning about the importance of using protection during sex or urging more access to medicine.

Actress and AIDS activist Rosie Perez urged the crowd not to give up the fight against world leaders, including UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan, whom she said has not done enough.

"It’s been too many years; it’s been 25 years, but we have to have hope," Perez said. "We have to show the world that our tenacity will prevail."

Annan Wednesday addressed a high-level meeting of the General Assembly where leaders from around the world gathered to consider new ways to tackle the deadly virus. Annan said the world has fallen far short of fulfilling the promises made five years ago to fight HIV/AIDS.

A major United Nations report on Tuesday found that AIDS had slowed but is still spreading.

Michael Johnson, 44, who works at the Bronx-based City-Wide Harm Reduction Center, which provides services to homeless and low-income drug users, said the government needs to provide more funds and better access to medicine.

"People are still getting infected at an alarming rate, people are still dying at an alarming rate," Johnson said. "So the government needs more intervention. They need to talk to the pharmaceutical companies about lowering their price for the cost of medicine."

As the protesters were converging outside, members of another group chained themselves in the lobby of an East 45th Street building where the U.S. Mission to the United Nations is located.

The group said it decided to take the action after it was barred from delivering a letter to U.S. Ambassador John Bolton that criticized America’s effort to fight AIDS.

A spokesman at the mission said the U.S. has provided $15 billion to AIDS causes. Police said 21 people were taken into custody for resisting arrest after authorities used bolt cutters to separate activists who had chained themselves to each other.