Tavis Smiley and Cornel West Urge Marchers to End Negative Stigma and Hold Government Accountable at AIDS March

 

@NickWestbrooks reports:

WASHINGTON- Addressing the crowd gathered at the 2012 AIDS March on Washington, Tavis Smiley and Dr. Cornel West urged the audience to eliminate the negative stigma surrounding HIV/AIDS and to hold the federal government accountable for funding research and treatment for the diseases.

On stage, West and Smiley engaged in a Q&A session facilitated by Michael Weinstein, the president of the AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF), the largest nonprofit global HIV/AIDS organization. Weinstein’s questions ranged from topics concerning homophobia in the Black community to the Obama administration’s proposed funding cuts towards for the President’s Emergency Fund for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR).

Responding to negative social stigma associated with HIV/AIDS, West encouraged listeners to “ be in love and solidarity with everyone living with AIDS no matter their sexual orientation.”

In addition to the social stigma linked sexual orientation and AIDS, West drew attention to the humiliation racial minorities living with AIDS face in society. He reminded listeners at the July 22 program “Black life has the same value as any other life.” He also compared homophobia to racism calling it “just as bad as White supremacy.”

Smiley called for AIDS activists to hold the U.S. federal government accountable for providing money for research to prevent the diseases and to treat patients living with HIV/AIDS in response to response to President Obama’s proposed budget cuts.

Smiley particularly addressed the President who had flown over the crowd in Air Force One just moments before he approached the podium.

“Great presidents are not born, they are made,” Smiley said. “They have to be pushed into greatness.”

Pushing the President would require activists to hold Obama accountable “out of love,” while sacrificing politics for “the truth” about AIDS.

Along with action from the U.S., Smiley and many of the marchers shared the sentiment that the G20 conference should fund AIDS research and treatment globally.

The march was the opening event of the International AIDS Society’s XIX International AIDS Conference. It’s the first time in 20 years that the conference is being held in the U.S. The focus of the conference, called “Keep the Promise,” is to encourage testing, prevention, research and treatment to the approximately 34 million people worldwide living with AIDS.

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