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In Washington, Hundreds Protest Bush AIDS Policy - 2003-11-25

A week before World AIDS Day, about 800 people from about a dozen organizations gathered in Washington, DC, to protest the Bush administration’s AIDS policies. The demonstrators called for greater spending as well as expanded treatment and prevention programs.

"People with Aids are under attack, what do we do? Act up, fight back."

The woman leading the chant is Asia Russell of the groups ACT-UP and the Health Gap Coalition. She says President Bush failed to follow through on his promise when he announced his AIDS initiative for Africa and the Caribbean.

"No one denies that the great speech Bush gave last year was just that, a great speech. And it was a revelation after two decades of this plague that treatment needs to be at the heart of any intervention that’s going to actually make a difference in fighting this pandemic. But one good speech and a promise finally to commit enough money is actually not sufficient."

The Bush plan called for spending 15-billion dollars over five years, in effect tripling US spending on HIV/AIDS. But in the first year, the administration requested two billion instead of three. Congress later added on an additional 400-million dollars for a total of two point four billion. But Ms. Russell says anything short of full funding will cost lives.

"What we’re demanding of this administration is to fully fund the Global Fund to fight AIDS, TB and Malaria – and to permit life extending services and programs for people at highest risk of HIV infection right here in the United States. To be able to move forward free from the censorship that conservatives, who are quite close to the Bush administration, are right now tramping down."

The AIDS activist says, “The bottom line is people with AIDS recognize when politicians, whom they elect, make promises that they break.” She says some of the same protesters spoke out against the Clinton administration, as well.

"Medication for every nation...Medication for every nation," chanted protesters.

The Bush administration says it spends more on the fight against HIV/AIDS than any other country – and contributes heavily to the Global Fund. In fact, Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy Thompson is chairman of the Fund’s board. And Mr. Thompson leaves soon for a tour of Africa.