One World. One Hope.
Emotions Run High as 16,000 Delegates Gather
for XI International Conference on AIDS
July 8, 1996
- The XI International Conference on AIDS opened yesterday (July 7) with a mixture of fiery content and passionate demonstrations from the floor of General Motors Place in downtown Vancouver. Hundreds of delegates [most of them members of ACT UP-Paris, ACT UP-New York and Wake Up Canada!] turned their backs, covered their ears, blew whistles and shouted while Canadian Health Minister David Dingwall attempted to deliver his welcoming remarks. The delegates were protesting Canadian Prime Minister Jean Chrtien's absence from the conference as well as Canada's failure to renew its National AIDS Strategy program.
During a three-hour opening ceremony meant to promote the conference slogan "One World, One Hope," it became clear from comments made by leaders in the AIDS treatment and research communities, that there are two worlds when it comes to fighting the deadly disease. In one, the rich can buy pills and optimism. In the other, the price tags attached to drug therapies makes AIDS care and treatment inaccessible to most people living with HIV and AIDS who are impoverished by HIV disease.
"Almost 22 million men, women and children are HIV-infected, and an estimated 8,500 new cases are occuring daily... Given these grim statistics, it is unacceptable that the majority of people living with AIDS should have to live without the essential drugs they need," said Dr. Peter Piot, executive director of the joint United Nations program on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS).
Piot's comment was echoed, albeit much more forcibly, by ACT UP-New York's Eric Sawyer.
"The cure isn't here. We are a long way from a cure, even for the rich. And for the poor, we're no closer than we were 10 years ago. Most people with AIDS can't get aspirin," said Sawyer, who is himself a person living with AIDS.
Sawyer went on to condemn "AIDS profiteers" for being more concerned about maximizing profits than saving lives. "To the drug companies, people with AIDS say, `It's time to drop your prices," Sawyer said.
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This article was provided by AIDS Action Council.