Via Workers World News Service
Reprinted from the Oct. 24, 1996
issue of Workers World newspaper

150,000 in Washington

Somber march puts spotlight on AIDS

By Shelley Ettinger

Over 150,000 people took part in the National AIDS Candlelight March in Washington the evening of Oct. 12.

The AIDS quilt was displayed on the Capitol Mall in its entirety-almost 40,000 panels commemorating people lost to the epidemic. In the days leading up to the candlelight march, people walked among the quilt's panels searching for the names of loved ones.

AIDS has now killed some 350,000 people in the United States. The epidemic has hit the gay, Black and Latino communities especially hard.

During the first 12 years of the AIDS crisis, Presidents Ronald Reagan and George Bush angered people with their racist, anti-gay, anti-poor refusal to adequately fund a real all-out program of research and treatment to end AIDS.

Clinton postures but doesn't act

What has President Bill Clinton done about AIDS? On Oct. 11 he visited the quilt, something Reagan and Bush never did.

Yet Clinton has not implemented any major new program to fight AIDS. In fact, his AIDS policy has not been markedly different from Reagan's and Bush's.

This past spring the AIDS commission that Clinton appointed harshly criticized him for failing to implement any of its recommendations to combat AIDS-just as the presidential AIDS commissions under Reagan and Bush had condemned those presidents.

The day after the candlelight march, hundreds of members of ACT UP gathered in front of the White House in what they termed a "political funeral." Protesters scattered the ashes of dead friends and lovers on the White House lawn.

Two days earlier, on Oct. 11, AIDS activists had demonstrated at the headquarters of the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers Association. They got to the building's front door and held the area from there to the sidewalk.

"We sent a message that price gouging has got to stop," ACT UP's Steven Le Blanc told Workers World. Demands were:

"Stop AIDS profiteering; greed = death," "Lower the prices of drugs," "State-of-the-art treatments for low-income and uninsured people," and "Provide AIDS drugs to the developing world."

The drug companies are apparently not satisfied with the results of their ongoing profiteering. In July, the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers Association filed a lawsuit seeking to block a federal program that requires drug companies to offer discounts to programs that serve the poor.

The candlelight march was the biggest in a series of weekend actions in the capital timed to coincide with National Coming Out Day, Oct. 11. Ever since the first March on Washington for Lesbian and Gay Rights on Oct. 11, 1979, many organizations have marked the date with activities in Washington.

Other weekend events included the national convention of Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays. A youth conference drew young lesbians, gay men, bisexuals and transgendered people from around the country.

The Latino/Latina Lesbian and Gay Organization-LLEGO- also held its national convention. A big LLEGO contingent, flying rainbow flags, also march ed Oct. 12 in the immigrant-rights demonstration.

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