Seattle Activists Protest Bush AIDS Policies
Ron Wurzer  /  Getty Images
Members of the Northwest Coalition for AIDS Treatment in Africa protest June 24 against the lack of funding to fight AIDS outside the Washington Republican National Committee Headquarters in Tukwila, Wash.
updated 6/24/2004 9:07:07 PM ET 2004-06-25T01:07:07

AIDS activists rallied in the United States and South Africa on Thursday, demanding that President Bush do more to treat and prevent the disease.

“Help is not getting to those who need it most, and it is essentially being used to fund Big Pharma,” said Aaron Boyle, one of 20 demonstrators at the Metropolitan Republican Club in New York.

In Harrisburg, Pa., 40 demonstrators chanted anti-Bush slogans outside the state headquarters of the president’s re-election campaign.

The U.S. protests followed larger demonstrations in South Africa, where hundreds protested outside the U.S. consulates in Johannesburg and Cape Town.

Broken promises
The activists said that while Bush has promised billions of dollars to fight AIDS in Africa and the Caribbean, the administration has released only $350 million. They also criticized the administration’s policy of supporting abstinence-only sex education programs.

“It’s not enough to say abstinence only,” said Laurie Wen in New York. “That’s like saying we’re not going to do anything for lung cancer, you just have to quit (smoking).”

White House spokesman Ken Lisaius responded that the Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief that Bush announced last year “is helping some of the most affected countries around the world ... and it’s helping to extend and save lives of people afflicted with this disease.”

In Johannesburg, about 500 AIDS activists, many wearing red and white T-shirts that said “HIV Positive,” said Bush had hurt the global fight against the disease by spending billions of dollars on war.

They also contended he undermined the fight against AIDS by limiting access to condoms, reproductive choices and generic drugs.

'His policy is killing people'
“We promote choice. We don’t dictate like George Bush. His policy is killing people. It is making the problem worse,” said Mark Heywood, a leader of the South African activist group Treatment Action Campaign.

In Cape Town, U.S. Consulate spokesman Louis Mazel spoke to about 350 demonstrators from the back of a flatbed truck. In South Africa, he said, the U.S. government elected to pass money through bilateral donors rather than the public-private Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria because that meant one less level of administration.

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“The U.S. is the largest contributor in the world to combating HIV and AIDS through both means,” Mazel said.

Consular officials in Johannesburg declined to meet with demonstrators; their offer to meet with two representatives was rejected.

Instead, Heywood read the group’s memorandum over a loudspeaker, then passed a copy under the consulate’s gate.

“The effect of the U.S. government’s unlawful war in Iraq has been to divert international attention and resources away from global health and poverty,” he said.

The memo noted the United Nations estimated that 2.5 million to 3.5 million people died of AIDS last year, 1 million died of malaria and 2 million died of tuberculosis.

Daniel Stewart, a spokesman for the consulate in Johannesburg, said the demonstrators were “simply incorrect” in asserting that the United States was making HIV and AIDS a secondary issue.

Elsewhere in the United States, about 10 protesters gathered outside Bush campaign headquarters in Manchester, N.H., chanting, “Bush lies, millions die, AIDS treatment now.”

In the Detroit suburb of Southfield, nine people demonstrated outside Bush’s Michigan campaign headquarters.

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