Students Take Up Fight Against HIV/AIDS
By Rachel Decker

Renowned activist Paul Davis journeyed to Oberlin on Tuesday, calling students to action to fight against the global AIDS epidemic.
Davis spoke to approximately twenty-five Obies in Wilder, describing the workings of the Health Global Access Project.
This organization is comprised of activists and advocates of human rights that campaign against governmental policies that neglect and ignore the rapid spread of HIV. Health GAP pushes for global access to inexpensive medicinal treatment for those infected with HIV/AIDS as a means of tackling and eventually squelching the AIDS virus.
They oppose and actively rally against agencies and industries that block that access.
A sobering United Nations AIDS report (the most recently released) revealed that, unless treatment is widely issued and preventative measures taken, 68 million people in the 45 most affected countries will die of the virus between 2000 and 2020.
The three pillars of the Health GAP organization were said by Davis to be dollars, debt and drugs. In essence, the organization aims to relieve foreign debt, which cripples the ability of the countries most seriously affected to slow the spread of HIV.
The money used by these nations to repay the U.S. could be used instead for healthcare measures; and make medicine widely available to those infected at affordable prices. “People should not have to die from treatable illnesses because they are poor,” Davis exclaimed, saying that we must collect as much money as possible for AIDS treatment funds and programs.
There is a gap, according to Davis, between those infected with HIV/AIDS and the actual medication used to treat them. Approximately 95 percent of people who have the virus do not have access to the treatment that has made the illness manageable in wealthier countries. “Pills cost pennies,” Davis stated. “Greed costs lives.”
Multiple efforts are needed to lower drug treatment costs including generic production of medication, a change in U.S. foreign trade policies and priorities, as well as attempting to break the monopoly of pharmaceutical companies of wealthy nations.
Health GAP feels that organization on an international scale in the assembly of funds to fight the AIDS epidemic is necessary for prevention and treatment.
The association is pushing for a Presidential AIDS Initiative that would include, among many other suggested possibilities, annual contributions to the Global Fund, (created by U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan, promising the funding of AIDS treatment programs in countries widely affected if adequately funded and controlled by the priority to fill the treatment gap) effective prevention programs stressing education and sexual health services, and developmental research for more effective vaccines and medications.
Davis revealed that drug costs for infected individuals, through the implementation and workings of suggested Health GAP policies, has been decreased from $1500 dollars a year to only $250.
America’s fair share in the Global AIDS Fund is $2-3 billion per year which, in turn, could possibly leverage billions from other wealthy countries.
Bush has contributed $200 million to the Global Fund this year. The fund is expected to have only $300 million by the end of December, drastically falling short of what is actually required to make a substantial difference in treatment.
President Bush is to travel to Africa in January 2003, roughly the same time he is scheduled to submit his budget request to Congress. Health GAP is hoping to influence a political movement resulting in a positive and helpful course of action by Washington before that time. They plan on doing this by campaigning for HIV/AIDS epidemic-concerned candidates running in the Nov. 5 House, Senate and gubernatorial races. “If we’re going to win this, it has to come from the White House,” stated Davis.
The decision of who is to replace Ohio’s 3rd District House Representative Tony Hall, who accepted a U.N. position, is one of the key elections in that movement.
Davis provided the students who attended his talk with what he termed “action kits” and “target lists.” These packets contain suggestions of and tips for staging press events such as briefings and conferences, how to effectively compose press releases and letters to the editor, and a list of possible actions to take at campaign related events such as pickets, protests and rallies.
He encouraged students who felt strongly about the HIV/AIDS epidemic to further the cause.

“It’s [the fight against global AIDS] work that’s going to change history, and change history soon,” he stated.


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