_Latin American marchers demand treatment access at AIDS2002

People Living with HIV/AIDS from Latin America and their supporters expressed their frustrations at an impromptu demonstration inside the grounds of the 14th International AIDS Conference in Barcelona lateThursday afternoon.

Shouting "access for all" and blowing whistles, about 50 marchers circled the exhibition booths and stopped at the UNAIDS booth wherevarious speakers from the region denounced the lack of commitment onthe part of National Governments in the region as well as theInternational Agencies, including UNAIDS and PAHO, whose role it is to facilitate expanded access to care and treatment by dialoguing wit hand supporting National AIDS programs.

In a press release, marchers presented a series of demands to UNAIDS related to various regional issues.

Marchers received loud applause as they passed various NGO booths from all parts of the world. As they passed pharmaceutical company booths they chanted "generic medications now."

Excluding Brazil which provides universal anti-retroviral acces onlyabout 25,000 of an estimated 150,000 people from the region have access to anti-retroviral therapy.

Marchers were from Costa Rica, Ecuador, Peru, Chile, El Salvador,Guatemala, Argentina, Venezuela, Colombia, Boliva and Brasil.

The marchers also decried conference organizers for not including more Latin American people in the agenda and for issues related to logistics and organization. "I felt like I was placed into a ghetto by Conference Organizers and it has affected my health," said one PWAs from Peru, referring to University housing which was provided for Conference Scholarships recipients, some 25 kilometers from the Conference Site. No shuttle bus service was available, only public transportation, with the
nearest train station nearly a kilometer's walk from the University Residence.

Another asked "how is it possible that Conference Organizers didn't provide us a forum to express what we need? We are dying, and the Conference organizers don't seem to care."

In their press release the group stated that "what we have experienced as a group in Barcelona within the conference itself has been a sense of discrimination and rejection. The Latin American reality has been consistently devalued."

At some point, activists from Act Up Paris joined the march, but when they began to spray paint the pharmaceutical company booths, Latin American activists left the activity while the Act Up group continued to go from booth to booth.


by Richard Stern, Director
Agua Buena Human Rights Association, San Jose, Costa Rica, tel/fax 506-234-2411



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