Remarks at the Opening Ceremony
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 organizers.

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 Rights Violations.

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 sufficient.

Similarly, we must start sanctioning, funding and evaluating the benefit of indigenous, alternative and holistic treatments. Some of these treatments are providing some antidotal benefit for the treatment of opportunistic infections and against HIV many are cheap and plentiful.

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 prevention efforts.

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 exist.

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-


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