By Katherine Martin
“Ryan White for H-I-V, not to fund the I-C-E” we shouted, posters in hand and cowboy hats on. The World AIDS Week rally last Friday was our final event after a week of educating, testing, and organizing.
As cars unloaded and student sand faculty headed down Main St. to Leahy’s office, we were hard to ignore.
Josh Dionne ’20, dressed head to toe in Western attire embodied the the motto of the rally: the good, the bad, and the ugly. On behalf of Student Global AIDS Campaign, Dionne delivered speeches to representatives from both senators’ offices. We encouraged them to oppose the reallocation of funds budgeted for HIV/AIDS in order to fund ICE and their endeavors to separate immigrant families and place kids in cages, as the Trump administration proposed early July.
Senator Patrick Leahy’s State Director, John Tracy, informed us that budgets are currently being discussed in Washington D.C. for programs such as PEPFAR and the Ryan White Care Act, which Leahy has proposed be increased.
“There is an innate evil in what is happening,” said Dionne. “This proposal not only undermines decades of HIV/AIDS healthcare rights, but also supports the injustice of separating family and imprisoning children.”
In the U.S. more than 1.1 million people are living with HIV today, and one in seven of them don’t know it. Meanwhile, keeping kids in custody at the southwest border has become a billion-dollar business, according to the New York Times.
The Student Global Aids Campaign (SGAC) delivered letters and badges to the senators, reminding them that they stand for and represent us, the people. The badges served as symbols to demonstrate the magnitude of their commitment.
“The government has come a long way in HIV/AIDS treatment, but this would be a major step backwards,” said SGAC member Jonah Hunt ’20. “HIV/AIDS is still very much a bipartisan issue and we must stand up for the moral good.”
Good: HIV/AIDS is still prevalent across the nation, particularly among marginalized groups, and government support such as the Ryan White Care ACT, offers assistance to those suffering. Globally, the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief is bringing life-saving funding to millions.
Bad: Immigration policy within the United States has become weaponized by the Trump administration. Among the worst of a series of cruel and deeply unethical policies, the separation of families and caging of kids are violations of basic human rights.
Ugly: Taking money from government support for individuals struggling to fund the jailing of immigrant children is damaging to both groups. Robbing the most vulnerable, including those with HIV/ AIDS and refugees, undermines the struggle many already face while perpetuating the demonization of immigrants in this country.
Katherine Martin is involved in SGAC, and is the politics editor for The Defender.