An “Occupy World AIDS Day” march from Zuccotti Park on December 1st called on Governor Cuomo and Mayor Bloomberg to back a millionaire’s tax extension to fund HIV/AIDS housing and healthcare in New York, and on congressional leaders to back a Financial Transaction or “Robin Hood” tax to fight AIDS overseas. After arriving at City Hall Park, about a dozen AIDS activists dressed as Robin Hoods were arrested after blocking traffic.
VOCAL-NY also responded to Mayor Bloomberg’s new HIV treatment guidelines in WNYC and Gay City News by pointing out that his budget cuts for housing and nutrition programs have made it harder for people living with HIV/AIDS to adhere to treatment.
Check out photos from the march and civil disobedience here and here, and video of Jim Lister discussing his experiences living through 30 years of the epidemic and now struggling to get by while paying over 70% of his disability income towards rent.
Highlights of media coverage from the march are copied below. There were also stories in the New York Times City Room Blog, Newsday, New York Post, International Business Times (with video), Wall Street Journal, CBS New York, Crain’s New York and amNewYork.
The protest, held on World AIDS Day, marked what for many was the public unveiling of a connection between New York’s HIV/AIDS activist community and the Occupy Wall Street movement.
“It went beautifully,” said Wayne Starks, a board member of VOCAL-NY who is 51 and living with AIDS. The big issue for Starks, and many of the other activists on Broadway, is the extension of the so-called millionaire’s tax. “We tried to send a message to our government about how we need to stop cutting funding to fight AIDS and start sending cuts to billionaires,” he said.
Starks said he spent a lot of time in Zuccotti Park before police cleared it out more than two weeks ago, although he did not regularly spend the night there. He said he thinks Occupy Wall Street and VOCAL-NY have essentially the same goals. “It’s human rights. They want affordable housing, we want affordable housing. They want jobs, we need jobs too,” he said.
“The history of AIDS activism is one of the best modern day examples of the power of political protests to bring about social change,” Barry said. “People think it’s merely a health issue, but let’s face it — if HIV did not primarily affect gay men of all races and poor women of color, our government would be taking this issue more seriously. What we’re doing today is our effort to really make the connection again between the health and politics, the messages of Occupy Wall Street and how mass inequality imperils us all.”
“We need a financial transaction tax in order to create the revenue we need to end the global aids epidemic,” said a protester.
“Once I started getting housing, I stopped using drugs, I started going to make my doctor’s appointments, I started eating right,” said Wayne Starks, a New Yorker living with AIDS. “But we can’t promise them help if they keep making cuts.”
“The reality is that Wall Street crashed our economy, and now politicians are saying there’s less money for basic needs,” said Felix Rivera-Pitre, a VOCAL-NY leader who is living with HIV/AIDS and currently in a homeless shelter.
Twitter chatter included:
@NY1thecall: Tonight at 9 on NY1 –> On World AIDS Day, protesters call for tax on financial transactions to help fund fight. Do you support that idea?
@RichardKimNYC: I love you guys!–great work all year long on needle exchange, housing, prisons, tough HIV/AIDS issues.