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Aids Coalition To Unleash Power

ACT UP New York

ACT UP NEW YORKERS demand corporations provide AIDS drugs for their workers in poor countries

(Thursday January 31) 7 Members of ACT UP New York were arrested this morning at the crack of dawn, among the first demonstrators to be arrested confronting the World Economic Forum’s annual meeting.

The protesters were arrested while dropping two massive banners in busy downtown and midtown New York City, the site of the World Economic Forum’s meeting. The banners demanded that corporations pay for treatment for the tens of thousands of HIV-positive workers they employ in poor countries, and condemned what activists call Bush’s measly contribution to the fight against the global AIDS crisis.

"Corporations would rather wring their hands and count the bodies than provide treatment for their HIV-positive employees in South Africa, in India, all over the world,’ said Sharonann Lynch, among the 7 activists arrested at 6 am this morning at the Holland Tunnel. "Super-profitable corporations like Coke and Shell can afford to pay for treatment for all of their workers with HIV/AIDSãbut their greed stops them. They are refusing to lift a finger to save their own sick employees.’

Activists anticipate the release of a report from the Global Health Initiative of the World Economic Forum on the "Business Response to AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria’ on February 2. This report will present "best practices’ for corporations responding to the global AIDS crisis, but will be silent on the issue of access to the life extending AIDS drugs that are widely available in rich countries.

Activists state that high-profile announcements including that of the Coca-Cola Corporation in June 2001, papered over the controversial issue of access to anti-HIV drugs. "Coke promised anti-HIV treatment only to their ådirect employees,’ãa fraction of their workforce,’ said Asia Russell of ACT UP Philadelphia. "They excluded access for thousands of bottlers facing death in Africaãscratch the surface, and they are refusing to make a real commitment.’

"The World Economic Forum is endorsing mass death by skirting the issue of access to affordable AIDS drugs,’ said Mark Milano of ACT UP New York, who was also arrested today. "Corporations must use their resources to pay for workplace treatmentãincluding access to anti-HIV drugs. The Global Health Initiative should be condemned for refusing to mandate access to HIV drugs for workers.’

This action came on the heels of President Bush’s announcement that he would request Congress reduced the U.S. contribution to the Global AIDS Fund to only $200 million for FY 2003. The World Health Organization recently released a report stating that $12 billion is needed to address AIDS, TB and malaria worldwide. "The airline bailout was $14 billion. Bush is sending $200 million to a Global Fund that requires billions,’ reports John Bell of ACT UP. "Tax cuts for the wealthy? Billions in pork for corporations disguised as åeconomic stimulus’? No problem for President Bush. He is turning his back on a pandemic worse than the Black Plague.’

Protesters are being taken en masse to the Brooklyn Naval Yard; ACT UP believes that the New York Police Department will detain protesters until the WEF meeting concludes. "Preventative detention violates the right of Americans to due process,’ said Joe Stevens of ACT UP. "We condemn any action of the NYPD that violates the fundamental right of Americans to non-violent protest.’

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