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
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
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
-Greed Kills-Access for All-
-Greed Kills-Access for All-
-Greed Kills-Access for All-