Over 3,500 people marched to the White House on May 6th to deposit 8,500 pairs of shoes, representing the number of people who die worldwide from AIDS-related illnesses each day. The march and rally that followed was the kick off of the newly formed Campaign to End Aids (C2EA). Led by a diverse coalition of people living with HIV/AIDS, their advocates, and their loved ones, the campaign is working to demand that our political leaders commit the necessary time, effort, and resources to end the AIDS pandemic. Over 200 international, national, and local organizations, including SIECUS, are endorsing the campaign.
The coalition of activists has crafted a 21-point plan detailing its platform and demands surrounding HIV/AIDS issues. One of the issues given "front-burner" status on the website is "restoring and reviving HIV prevention worldwide based on the best science."1 The organizers stress the need for scientifically proven prevention approaches like comprehensive sexuality education and harm reduction programs, rather than the abstinence-only-until-marriage approach funded by the current U.S. government. Other goals include reauthorizing and fully funding the Ryan White Care Act, which provides treatment, care, and services for Americans with HIV/AIDS.
In addition to these recent actions, C2EA is planning a youth AIDS institute training over the summer and in the fall, people living with AIDS (PLWA) and activists from every state will join together in nine cross-country caravans, converging on Washington, DC for five days of action, advocacy, prayer, and support spanning October 8-12.
The activists at the recent march also participated in lobbying visits organized by AIDSWatch and the National Association of People Living with AIDS earlier in the week. Both events drew a diverse group of people representing many different races, age groups, religions, and geographic locations. The activists included a 24-year-old HIV-positive woman from Billings, MT, an HIV-positive Texas-born Baptist Minister, and a recently diagnosed Chicago man who raised money for his travel by announcing his HIV-positive status in an affluent neighborhood and asking for contributions.2
According to Eric Sawyer, a veteran of the AIDS movement and founder of ACT UP, one of the most prominent AIDS activist groups, "way back when, the activists were usually gay, white men, privileged and educated…today we've got African American churchwomen from the South walking with someone straight out of prison, walking with an Asian Harvard graduate."3
The shift in the typical activist profile represents a comparable shift in the demographics of PLWA today. Latinos comprise only 12.5% of the nation's population but now make up over 20% of the AIDS cases. Similarly, African American women, make up 12% of all American women, but account for 72% of all new HIV/AIDS cases among American women.4
"SIECUS is excited about being part of this important effort," said Bill Smith, vice president for public policy. "Now, more than ever, our sense of what is morally right must guide us and our advocacy to defend the critical programs and politics that can bring an end to one of the most serious health threats facing humanity."
- Platform, Campaign to End AIDS (2005), accessed 11 May 2005.
- Campaign to End AIDS, "These Shoes Were Made For Talkin'!" Press Release published on 6 May 2005.
- Petula Dvorak, "AIDS Activist Walk, But the Shoes Talk," Washington Post, 6 May 2005, B03.
- Full 21 Point Plan, Campaign to End AIDS (2005), accessed 11 May 2005.