Updated at 2:41 PM
Hundreds of activists marched from City Hall to the Department of Social Services at 180 Water Street Wednesday to commemorate the twenty-fifth anniversary of the AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power (ACT UP). Participants included activists from ACT UP, Occupy Wall Street and Housing Works, a group consisting of individuals living with and affected by HIV/AIDS that seeks to end the crisis of homelessness.
For many Americans, the HIV/AIDS pandemic seems like mythology, an ancient tale of agony that no longer applies to the country as a whole. However, in 2010 alone some 2.7 million people worldwide became newly infected with the virus, including an estimated 390,000 children, and there were an estimated 1.8 million AIDS-related deaths. (photo by @jamiekilstein)
Budget cuts and lack of insurance access have profoundly affected the HIV/AIDS community. The US AIDS Drug Assistance Program (ADAP), which aims to provide treatment for very poor individuals, was critically underfunded for many years, and as of March 2011, there were 7,261 people on waiting lists in a total of eleven states. For those lacking insurance coverage, the National HIV/AIDS Strategy says that the Affordable Care Act will provide expanded access to health insurance for people living with HIV and AIDS.
Wanda Hernandez, board chair of VOCAL NY, stressed to the crowd that AIDS is a disease affecting poor women of color.
“HIV is driven by social injustice,” she said, chiding Bloomberg “for trying to take away our rights and safety net.” The mayor is calling for cuts of $7.5 million to services for homeless and runaway youth alone.
More than 45,000 New Yorkers living with HIV/AIDS and their children rely on the HIV/AIDS Services Administration (HASA) for housing, healthcare and nutrition programs, and yet the mayor’s budget failed to restore funding for housing, nutrition, and prevention services for homeless and low-income people living with HIV/AIDS.
Gay City News spoke with Kate Barnhart, who has been an AIDS activist since the age of 15 and the director of New Alternatives for Homeless LGBT Youth. She said, “This feels like a reunion we shouldn’t have to have. It feels like after 25 years, we should have ended the AIDS crisis and not be fighting for the resources that people need to stay alive.”