D.C. to host International AIDS Conference Amidst City’s Epidemic

Larry Bryant

Listen to Larry Bryant on Voice of Russia Radio

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It’s been more than twenty years since the International AIDS Conference was last held in the U.S. That’ll change in July when an expected 25,000 delegates from nearly 200 countries come to Washington, D.C.

The last International AIDS Conference held on U.S. soil took place in San Francisco in 1990, when individuals with HIV were denied entry into the country causing an international outcry. President Obama lifted the travel ban on HIV-positive individuals in 2009, paving the way for July’s gathering in D.C.

As the international community gathers this summer, it does so in a city which is experiencing an epidemic, where at least 3 percent of residents are infected with HIV, and far more in the city’s underserved communities.

According to Larry Bryant, national field organizer for Housing Works and co-chair of DC Fights Back, some District officials have taken a wait-and-see approach to dealing with the epidemic. Bryant said their mindset seems to be, “if we wait long enough the problem will go away.” They may be right. 

D.C.’s less affluent communities, which suffer from higher AIDS rates, are being driven out of the city. The number of District residents living with AIDS in D.C. may go down “because people can’t afford to stay here,” Bryant said Tuesday on Voice of Russia Radio’s Capitol Correspondent, guest-hosted by TheFightBack‘s Pete Tucker. “That’s not a solution, that’s neglect.”

The number of District residents living with AIDS may be further reduced by attrition. “Our numbers are going down because of the deaths due to HIV, due to AIDS,” said Bryant, a native Washingtonian who’s been living with HIV since 1986.

In the fight against AIDS, activism has played a critical role, and the weeklong conference is likely to experience its share of it.

Bryant is organizing a July 24 We Can End AIDS Mobilization in downtown D.C. which will include a “march to demand a city, a country, and a world where the lives and health of its citizens, workers, families, and communities are prioritized over ideology,” says a flier.

If the U.S. doesn’t commit to taking concrete steps to ending the disease, “we will let them know visually, vocally and vehemently,” said Bryant.

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Related Stories:
Unlike Mayor, AIDS Activists Face Serious Sentences for Civil Disobedience, Feb. 12, 2012
Activist/Organizer Larry Bryant On AIDS 2012 Coming to D.C. and the Mayor’s Commission on HIV/AIDS, Feb. 28, 2011

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