South Africa Protestors Decry AIDS Response
April 25, 2003
Salih Booker, executive director of the US advocacy group Africa Action, on Thursday joined with about 200 other people in a march to protest South Africa's handling of its AIDS crisis.Adapted from:
At the South African Embassy in Washington, the protestors dumped 600 pairs of shoes onto the concrete to symbolize the daily death toll from AIDS in South Africa. The marchers, many of them HIV-positive, tumbled the donated shoes into a pile about two feet high. "Then, we were fighting apartheid in one country," said Booker, 45, recalling his earlier anti-apartheid protests at the embassy. "Now, we are fighting global apartheid."
The protestors said the South African government has failed to respond aggressively to the crisis, leaving millions without access to treatment. The country has more people infected with HIV than any other. Activists said the number of those infected is roughly 4.6 million. Activists said about 200,000 HIV-positive South Africans died last year.
Asia Russell, director of international policy at Health GAP, read a memorandum that activists planned to give to a representative of the embassy. Acting South African Ambassador Thandabantu Nhlapo came outside to accept it and read a brief statement to the protestors. "As we all know, South Africa's commitment to fighting this disease is well recorded and well reflected in the national programs and resources we have committed," said Nhlapo. He said the government's budget allocation for HIV/AIDS and other infectious diseases has increased tenfold since 2001. After the rally, a few activists were invited inside the embassy for a meeting. "It was a positive meeting," Booker said. "It does represent progress."
The demonstration was organized by Africa Action, the Health GAP Coalition and ACT UP groups in New York and Philadelphia, among others. The global day of protest was initiated by Treatment Action Campaign, a South African AIDS activist group.
04.25.03; Manny Fernandez
This article was provided by CDC National Prevention Information Network. It is a part of the publication CDC HIV/Hepatitis/STD/TB Prevention News Update.