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ACT UP Speech at AIDS Conference text
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- Date: Wed, 14 Aug 1996 11:48:10 EST
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This is the text of the speech Eric Sawyer, one of ACT UP/NY's
founding members and founder of Housing Works, made to the 15,000
people attending the International AIDS conference in Vancouver this
Remarks at the Opening Ceremony of the International AIDS Conference
in Vancouver July 7th. by Eric Sawyer, ACT UP New York
Thank you for your kind words of introduction. And thank you to the
IAS, to the Five Co-sponsoring Organizations and to the conference
Distinguished guests, I am going to be very blunt. I'm here to sound a
wake up call to everyone attending this conference. I am afraid that
you all will miss the real message from this conference. I speak
especially to the media, who have started the spin that the "the cure
is here, let's dance." If you think the cure is here, Think Again. The
cure is not here.
The fact that the protease - combination-drug treatments are showing a
lot of promise in the blood tests of the very few people who can get
them, does not mean that the cure is here. Yes the preliminary results
from these hugely expensive combination treatments look great. But we
are a long way from a cure, even for the rich who can afford the
treatments. And we are no closer to a cure for the majority of people
living with AIDS on this planet than we were ten years ago. Most PWAs
can't get aspirins.
Are you listening yet? The headlines that PWAS want you to write from
this conference would read: "Human Rights Violations and Genocide
continue to kill millions of impoverished people with AIDS". That is
the truth about AIDS in 1996.
The truth is, genocide continues against poor people with AIDS,
especially those from developing countries, by AIDS Profiteers who are
more concerned about maximizing profits than saving lives. Drug
Companies are killing people by charging excessive prices. This limits
access to treatments. The greed of AIDS Profiteers is killing
impoverished people with AIDS.
The truth is, the governments of the world are killing people with
AIDS, because they think public health is isolating their rich often
white populations from the diseases of the poor by instituting
immigration barriers instead of providing health care to the sick.
Governments are killing poor people in developing countries because
they are providing only a tiny amount of AIDS funding which is limited
to prevention efforts and does not pay for AIDS care.
The truth is, Hatred of the poor and of the disenfranchised
communities continues to allow discrimination, stigmatization,
violence and even the murder of people living with AIDS to remain
unchecked. People with AIDS do not have any protection against Human
I hope that I've gotten your attention. Because People with AIDS need
access to treatments, not false hope. People with AIDS need their
Human Rights to be protected. People with AIDS also, need a new global
initiative to get treatments into developing countries.
To the drug companies people with AIDS say it's time to drop you
prices. Drug Companies should consider developing a two tier pricing
system that allows reasonable profits to be made from the rich. But,
AIDS treatments must also be made available to the poor everywhere, at
cost or at very minimal levels of profit.
And if you drug companies don't make this shift voluntarily we will
advocate for governmental regulations to mandate this and fight to
have your patents taken away from you. Remember tetracycline in
W.W.II. If drug companies don't respond we should fight for taxing the
profits of Pharmaceutical to pay for treatments for the poor.
To the development agencies, UNAIDS and USAID PWAs say "we need a
Global Initiative to get treatments to poor people, especially in
developing countries. You must form a partnership between people with
AIDS, drug companies, the business community at large and governments
to get treatments and prophylactics for TB, PCP and diarrhea diseases,
the primary killers of people with AIDS.
We are not talking about huge amounts of money, like we in the north
are paying for the Protease three drug cocktails. Peter Piot told me
TB Prophylaxis costs $15 per person per year in Uganda. Community
Prescription Services says generic bactrium is purchased by some
governmental programs in the US for $32 per person per year. NTZ is
being studied by WHO for treatment of Diarrhea, including
crypto-sporidium. It is produced in one ton batches and should be
priced similarly to the TB Prophylaxis. Thus, for less than $60 per
year we can save a persons life. We have a moral obligation to
humanity to make these treatments available to everyone.
During the community forum, a working group to continue cooperative
work towards global access to treatments was formed. This process must
be nurtured and supported, drug companies and governments must join
this group to help get drugs into developing countries.
To the researchers, PWAs say re-think the way that research is
conducted on treatments against HIV and the Opportunistic Infections
of AIDS. We must take advantage of the revolutionary new laboratory
tests, including viral load testing. We must start methodological
research of Off -Patent use of a host of safe drugs that might treat
HIV or it's OI's. A series of 10 week efficacy studies should be
Similarly, we must start sanctioning, funding and evaluating the
benefit of indigenous, alternative and holistic treatments. Some of
these treatments are providing some anecdotal benefit for the
treatment of opportunistic infections and against HIV many are cheap
To the governments of the world PWAs say you must quite lying. Our
governments lie to us when they sign meaningless statements like the
Paris Summit Declarations and the G-7 Statement promising to do
something for AIDS. Government promises don't save lives, but
government actions and funding for AIDS Programs can. Bill Clinton if
you care about PWAs ask Congress for 3 billion dollars for
International AIDS Programs instead of 130 million dollars.
We must also broaden global AIDS programs away from the prevention
only priority for AIDS funding because it is undermining prevention
efforts. HIV/AIDS programs must include prevention, human rights and
treatment components. This is necessary because effective prevention
efforts both target HIV infected individuals with prevention education
and use self-identified HIV-infected individuals as prevention
educators. HIV infected individuals need an incentive, like access to
treatments and care to encourage their participation. HIV infected
individuals also need protection from persecution that often
accompanies disclosure of HIV infections. Prevention efforts that lack
accompanying treatment and human rights components are undermining
We must also broaden our approach to treatment and prevention efforts
to include the greater participation of infected community members,
tribal leaders and traditional healers.
During the Community Forum a second working group was also started to
initiate a network of cooperative actions by AIDS Service
Organizations and by Human Rights Organizations around HIV/AIDS Human
Rights Violations. And in the United States Academy Award Winning
Actress Susan Sarandon and I started The HIV/AIDS Human Rights Project
to raise money and media attention to the many Human Rights abuses
that are occurring around the world.
But the communities impacted by AIDS can't do it alone. It's time for
society to share the commitment to making a difference - not in the
politics of AIDS, but in the lives of tens of millions of people
living with the virus.
It is time for the media to stop talking about a cure that does not
It's time we start talking about global access to health care; not
about donor fatigue and diminishing resources.
It's time we start talking about protecting the human rights of people
with AIDS; not about imposing more immigration restriction that deny
more people with AIDS from health care.
It's time we all learn to work together, whether we work to fight AIDS
through an Agency Program, an NGO, a government, a health care
provider or a private business. For any one of us to make a difference
we must all work as one team in this global fight.
But before this can happen we must end the genocide. Before this can
happen we must end the greed. Because: GREED = Death, end the greed.
Demand access to All.
-Greed Kills-Access for All-
-Greed Kills-Access for All-
-Greed Kills-Access for All-