10 AIDS Activists Kicked to the Curb and Arrested at ACT UP Anniversary

Activist Jessica Rechtschaffer being arrested at our civil disobedience for ACT-UP's 25th. Photos courtesy of Scott Korn.
Activist Jessica Rechtschaffer being arrested at our civil disobedience for ACT-UP's 25th.
Scott Korn.

For photos from today's action visit our Flickr page.

Ten AIDS activists were arrested near City Hall today for demonstrating how Mayor Bloomberg and HRA Commissioner Robert Doar's AIDS policies are kicking people with AIDS "to the curb."

Housing Works activists set up a house, complete with couch, bed, sink and toilet on on Broadway across from City Hall to show the world exactly what recent HASA policies are doing to people with AIDS: creating more homelessness. NYPD came swiftly running, trashed the installation, and arrested the protesters. The demonstration was a part of the 25th Anniversary march and rally to commemorate AIDS Coalition To Unleash Power (ACT-UP), which forced NYC and the nation to respond to the needs of people with AIDS in the 1980s and 1990s.

"ACT-UP formed 25 years ago to demand that NYC and the nation put resources into helping people with AIDS access basic care and services," said Charles King, CEO for Housing Works. "Today, Housing Works is still fighting for the same demands for people -- the right to housing for people with HIV, the right to treatment and care, and the right to prevention methods like access to syringes and condoms."

Housing Works has always emphasized that "housing is the key" to ending the AIDS epidemic, and now supported by plenty of research. Despite this fact, NYC's social services have made the reality of affordable housing even more difficult for people with HIV. Housing Works has been actively advocating against recent changes to NYC's policies for people living with AIDS under the HIV/AIDS Services Administration (HASA).

"If Mayor Bloomberg and HRA Commissioner Doar continues to cut services for people with AIDS, you're going to see more homeless people in the streets of New York, just like this demonstration today, said Derrick Chandler, NYS Issues Organizer for Housing Works. "We need to make sure that the city reverses the recent changes to HASA that make it harder for people with AIDS to get access to affordable housing."

But true to ACT-UP's original form, the local AIDS issues were linked to the global. While Housing Works focused on the NYC AIDS housing budget cuts being made because of the city's fiscal problems cause by the recession, several ACT-UP protesters were arrested at Wall Street to protests the havoc Wall Street speculators wreaked on the global economy, which has caused many Western countries to drastically cut funding for Global AIDS treatment, and social safety net cuts at home (called "austerity" measures).

Hundreds of protesters marched from City Hall to Wall Street, demanding a "Financial Speculation Tax" (Fi.S.T.). This policy would involve a small tax -- a mere fraction of one percent -- on speculative trading by Wall Street investment banks, hedge funds and other large financial institutions. Funds from the tax would be invested in providing full access to treatment and services -- such as housing -- for people with HIV across the globe.

"Poor people with HIV didn't cause the economic crisis, and they should not be forced to have their services cut because of the actions of bankers and hedge fund managers." said Kristin Goodwin, director of NYC policy and organizing for Housing Works.

This year will be a red letter year for AIDS activism. In addition to the ACT-UP anniversary, Housing Works and other activists were arrested on Capitol Hill protesting the federal ban on syringe exchange in March. In July Housing Works and organizations across the globe are planning the We Can End AIDS mobilization, at the International AIDS Conference in Washington DC.

AIDS is not over, and neither is the fight to end it.