The student news site of Guilford College

The Guilfordian

The student news site of Guilford College

The Guilfordian

The student news site of Guilford College

The Guilfordian

World AIDs Day commemorated

Hundreds of activists stood before the White House with their hands cupped tightly around their mouths as they passionately shout synchronized chants. Other protesters hold signs and lift them in the air; their arms tight as they bellow, “how many more have to die before you join the fight?” This is the scene of 300 diverse people fighting for a common cause on World AIDS Day.

Three Guilford students drove to Washington to join in the protest. Tim Scales, Senate President, Erin Burns, senior Peace Studies and Political Science major, and sophomore Martha Assefa all attended the rally.

Assefa has a connection to the cause.

“I grew up in Kenya, where seven-hundred people died from AIDS,” she said.

Friday, Dec. 1, was World AIDS Day, and Washington, D.C., was inundated with people from various backgrounds, races, ethnicities, and walks of life. College students from surrounding universities, adults with their families, organized AIDS groups, and media representatives were present in hopes of delivering one message.

Tim Scales said, “I was really excited about the diversity of the rally. It was inspiring to see so many different groups come together to support this common cause.”

“We are trying to get DC to legalize needle exchange, as well as asking for $8 billion to fund training and retention for health workers in Africa,” said Burns. “Not only are we asking for all of this, but we also want full funding of the Ryan White Care Act, a bill that provides care and affordable drugs to people who are HIV positive in the United States.”

Before the rally began, speeches were given as a means to bring the crowd together and strengthen themselves as one voice. Organized AIDS groups spoke to generate passion and anger in the crowd. Groups such as Act Up Philadelphia, DC Fights Back, The Student Global AIDS Campaign, and RAP (Regional, Addiction, Promotion) all gave words of encouragement.

Three hundred people walked to the front of the White House. They stopped at the sidewalk where police on horseback sat to divide the White House from the rally. The rally consisted of unified chanting.

“Pills cost pennies, greed cost lives!” shouted the crowd. “When people with AIDS are under attack, what do we do? Act up, fight back!”

On the other side of the road about 20 people stood dressed up as needles, doctors, and pills. The group knew they would be arrested. The hope was to send a message about the necessity of clean needles and affordable medication, as well as the need for trained health-care workers. Erin Burns was part of the few who dressed in costume.

Burns said, “The 22 of us who got arrested were calling attention to our government’s inadequate response to the AIDS crisis. I felt incredibly empowered to sit with my back to the White House, facing hundreds of people who were demanding generic drugs and clean needles.”

One man recited a rap he wrote in celebration of the life of a woman he knew who died of AIDS. The title was “Heaven In View.” It stressed his understanding of how she lived an amazing life despite the fact that everyday was a struggle for. “Heaven In View” stood for HIV, but the emphasis was on the woman’s tenacity to live, and her persistence to reach for heaven with HIV staring at her everyday.

“It was great to be among other people who were passionate about AIDS issues,” said Burns.

“The rally was primarily organized by college students from across the country. It really demonstrated how powerful a voice students can have when they unite for a common purpose,” said Scales

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