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Student group to rally on Common for increased AIDS funding

Posted by Roy Greene  December 2, 2010 03:37 PM

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Amid concern about the federal deficit, the Obama administration is under pressure to spend less. Tonight, a group of college students will gather on the Boston Common for World AIDS Day to urge the White House to do the opposite.

Students from Harvard University and other colleges and community organizations plan to rally near the Parkman Bandstand at 7 p.m. in support of increased spending for global HIV/AIDS programs, a campaign promise that rally organizers say President Barack Obama has so far failed to meet.

Obama pledged to raise the federal funding bar to $50 billion over five years for programs to fight the disease, but is only on track to spend $34 billion, according to rally organizers. That number “hardly keeps up with inflation in most African countries” and leaves many who were promised treatment around the world to go without, said Scott Gregg, a Harvard senior taking part in the rally.

“We have the resources. It’s a treatable disease,” Gregg said. “It’s just a basic question of who we are and what we care about.”

The rally marks a growing trend of AIDS activism at the college level, spearheaded by public-health students who have protested Obama for what they say are funding shortfalls, Gregg said.

“In the past, it was people who were somehow directly affected by the disease,” Gregg said. “This new group is driven more out of a sense of social justice.”

An estimated 2.6 million people became newly infected with HIV last year, and an estimated 1.8 million people died from an AIDS-related illness, according to the United Nations.

Organizers plan to hold a candlelight vigil for those affected by HIV/AIDS tonight after speeches from activists. They will then hold the rally, rain or shine, with a march to Senator John Kerry’s office in Bowdoin Square. Kerry chairs the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

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