Unencumbered by protest signs, seven AIDS activists stormed John Boehner’s office yesterday and removed their clothes to reveal the slogans painted on their bodies: “AIDS Cuts Kill.”
Chants of “Boehner, Boehner, don’t be a dick, budget cuts will make us sick,” filled the halls as demonstrators from the groups Queerocracy, ACT-UP, and Health GAP demanded a meeting with the House Speaker. Three women were arrested and charged with lewd and indecent acts. (As Tara Abrams notes at the Huffington Post today, none of the four men involved in the protest were arrested, though all seven protesters put their clothes back on and exited the office together.)
As the “fiscal cliff” draws nearer, activists are seeking to highlight the devastating impact that mandatory cuts could have on the global fight against HIV/AIDS.
Tomorrow, Secretary Clinton will commemorate World AIDS Day by announcing a new blueprint for ending HIV/AIDS. But the AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power (ACT UP) asserts that the budget cuts “will make this goal nearly impossible” and result in at least 620,000 preventable deaths from HIV.
According to research conducted by the National Alliance of State and Territorial AIDS Directors (NASTAD), sequestration will mean that state HIV/AIDS and viral hepatitis programs:
will have to eliminate prevention initiatives, remove clients from the AIDS Drug Assistance Program (ADAP) and other vital health coverage services, and reduce knowledgeable, trained staff carrying out HIV and viral hepatitis efforts in health departments and on the ground.
The study goes on to lay out the cuts’ consequences: HIV prevention efforts will lose $28 million in funding, meaning an increase in infections. Drug resistance funds will be cut by $77 million, cutting off access to life-saving medicines for 15,000 Americans. And reductions in the availability of advanced HIV testing will likely result in 412 people contracting HIV without being diagnosed each fiscal year. Grants funding HIV care for at-risk populations will be cut by nearly $35 million. HIV surveillance, essential for containing the disease, will be cut by $9.7 million. Prevention and Public Health Fund will be cut by $76 million, removing existing prevention programs and stopping new ones from being created.
Global health programs and services, meanwhile, would lose $689 million.
“We are here today to tell the naked truth about these budget cuts,” Jennifer Flynn, one of the naked activists, told the crowd before being arrested. “The truth is that people with AIDS have been stripped naked for years — Medicaid has been cut, states are [struggling]. … There are waiting lists in this country where people with AIDS are dying.”