GW’s Student Global AIDS Campaign joined the Health Global Access Project on World AIDS Day to hold a mock funeral in front of the White House Wednesday, in an attempt to draw attention to the 1.8 million people who died in the past year due to lack of access to treatment.
Participants called on President Barack Obama to increase funding globally for universal access to treatment and to implement a comprehensive strategy to end AIDS at the Lafayette Park rally.
About seven members of SGAC joined representatives of Health GAP, D.C. Fights Back, National AIDS Housing Coalition, the National Low Income Housing Coalition and others in the rally, which had about 100 participants.
“We are participating in this rally to raise awareness on the amount of people that are living with AIDS and people that don’t have access to treatment,” senior Amanda Leslie, the organizations coordinator, said at the event.
In the District, about 3 percent of the adult population has been diagnosed with HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, according to the D.C. Department of Health’s HIV/AIDS Administration.
Christine Campbell, vice president for Housing Works’ National Advocacy and Organizing, said people know how to help end the HIV/AIDS epidemic, but that it’s being ignored.
“The people that suffer the most are the ones of low-income status, they can’t help themselves,” Campbell said. “This has become more of the survival of the fittest.”
Campbell said the government sees the issue as more of a charitable cause, but that it should be seen as being about social justice and equality.
George Kerr, a representative of D.C. Fights Back and 15-year survivor of AIDS, said people with AIDS around the world have trouble finding housing and may end up dying without treatment.
“We want Obama to keep his promise to provide services to help end HIV/AIDS,” he said.
Viviane Ortiz, an activist for the Latino community in north Philadelphia, said she lost her uncle to AIDS in 1993.
“He died because of inadequate medical attention,” Ortiz said.
She said he wasn’t the only one she knew who faced the disease.
“I have friends that are HIV-positive and I live in a community that is highly HIV-positive,” she said.