Hundreds of advocates and community leaders are expected to participate in the "Keep the Promise on HIV/AIDS" March and Rally this Saturday, November 3, 2012 beginning at 1:00 pm in Centennial Park. The event—the second in a series calling on officials to commit to stopping AIDS—will feature a performance by celebrated gospel singer James Fortune. Joining him onstage will be actor and rapper Tray Chaney of HBO's "The Wire," with a new song about accepting others and putting an end to bullying. Other local advocates and leaders participating include Rep. Hank Johnson (D-GA, 4th district) and Rev. Raphael Warnock of Ebenezer Baptist Church. R&B singer Monica and Ebony Steele of the "Rickey Smiley Morning Show" will serve as hosts.
Created by AIDS Healthcare Foundation, the "Keep the Promise" campaign brings together like-minded supporters to advocate for testing and treatment all over the world in the communities that need it most. The Atlanta event will highlight the crucial health care, funding, and policy needs in the hard-hit Southern U.S.—now the nation's epicenter of HIV/AIDS.
This second "Keep the Promise" march follows the inaugural "Keep the Promise" March on Washington in July of this year, when a coalition of 1,432 organizations from 103 countries came together before the XIX International AIDS Conference to call for more global HIV/AIDS funding. The Atlanta march will serve as a clarion call to better address HIV/AIDS in the South, through funding, health care reform, prevention and care in rural areas, and affordable housing for people living with HIV/AIDS. Each Southern state will be represented at the rally by a flag and a flagbearer sharing a fact or personal story about the impact of HIV/AIDS in that state. The next "Keep the Promise" march will be in New York City on World AIDS Day (December 1).
"Atlanta is an ideal place to send the message that this country's struggle against AIDS isn't over," said Terri Ford, AIDS Healthcare Foundation's Senior Director of Global Policy and Advocacy and the lead organizer of the march. "The South has the highest rate of new HIV infections and the highest rate of deaths due to AIDS in the country: people aren't finding out their HIV status due to stigma around testing; they are paying exorbitant prices for drugs they need to survive. That's simply unacceptable. We need to follow through on our commitment to providing access to prevention and treatment to everyone, everywhere."
"This rally sends a message to national, state, and local officials to 'Keep the Promise' to create an AIDS free generation. In order to get to zero new infections, there must be mobilized efforts like this one to demand access to treatment and medication; create safe environments for HIV positive people to disclose their status; and funding to ensure equity in HIV prevention, treatment, and care services for all people living with HIV, particularly people of color, who represent nearly half of all NEW infections," said Leisha McKinley-Beach, Director of Technical Assistance and Stakeholder Engagement the Black AIDS Institute. "The question is no longer can we end the AIDS epidemic, but will we end the AIDS epidemic?"
This march seeks to bring attention to the need for testing and care in underserved areas. While the federal government has recently delivered funds to eliminate waiting lists for the state AIDS Drug Assistance Programs, HIV/AIDS care providers are still dealing with the fallout of that denied access.
As part of the rally, a procession of community representatives carrying state flags from each of the twelve southern states participating in the March will occur at the Rally at Freight Depot. The states represented include: Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Florida, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas.
"This march, just three days before the elections, is a great opportunity for advocates and organizations to remind their representatives that we're watching them on AIDS funding and care," said Michael Weinstein, President of AIDS Healthcare Foundation. "Prevention and treatment aren't optional. They can't be cut or rolled back. Elected officials need to show that they understand the urgency of the need here, or voters will hold them accountable."
AIDS Healthcare Foundation .