Marching Toward the End of AIDS

By Rob Banaszak on August 6, 2012 in 2012 International AIDS Conference

by Sophia Denison-Johnston

Today we participated in the End to AIDS March. We started off at the Youth pavilion and helped two African girls draw signs on cardboard. One that we made said “We Want an AIDS Free Generation.”  Another said “People over Profit” and was depicted on a giant cut-out of an AIDS ribbon. After we had finished making the signs, we gathered in front of the youth pavilion with signs and cowbells encouraging others to join the march. We began marching through the global village. It felt so empowering- knowing that I was walking for a difference. I loved the feeling of joining forces with youth from Nigeria and Brazil and knowing that I was not only fighting for the rights of people in my community, but in ALL communities.

After marching through the Global Village, the protest made its way up several escalators- a part of the plan that probably could have been better thought out. A fellow marcher had a really tall sign that personified Big Pharma as a giant puppet. The signs were creative, but it was hard for hundreds of people carrying tall signs to maneuver up the snaking escalators. Finally everyone was on the grass and we began marching to the Novartis headquarters. There we lay down on the sidewalk like corpses and recreated a protest where some marchers went around and traced our bodies like a crime scene.

The one thing that made me uncomfortable was when the group started shouting the negative things. I mean don’t get me wrong, I agree that there are some serious problems – but I think that as activists we need to not just channel anger, but hope. If we want political leaders to support us, shouldn’t we be asking them to collaborate and help us? I think (and I may be wrong here) that there are more positive ways to go about the march. Rather saying chants like “Shame on Novartis,” we could be saying things like, “WE CAN END AIDS WITH YOUR HELP”.

I do really appreciate all the people who were shouting solutions and how to help rather than bashing and blaming- even if the blame is deserved. At this critical turning point, the last thing we as activists need is for political leaders to think that we are a nuisance.

Let’s get people excited about the end of AIDS, not angry at the obstacles.

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