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Back to Section One | Back to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, April 15, 2011 - Volume 39 Issue 15
DC REPORT - 12 activists arrested for taking over Rep. Cantor's office
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DC REPORT - 12 activists arrested for taking over Rep. Cantor's office

by Mike Andrew - SGN Staff Writer

A dozen AIDS activists were arrested at the office of Republican House Majority Leader Eric Cantor on April 11. According to witnesses, they were chanting 'GOP spreads HIV.'

The 12 were charged with unlawful conduct, Capitol Police Sgt. Kimberly Schneider said.

The protest was organized by Health GAP (Global Access Project).

The group's press release said they were protesting budget cuts to international aid programs for people living with HIV/AIDS, and Republican efforts to bar the District of Columbia from using local tax dollars to fund local needle exchange programs.

'Majority Leader Cantor and the House Republicans are about to introduce a bill to balance the federal budget on the backs of people living with HIV in Africa,' said Michael Tikili, a Health GAP member.

While details of the compromise 2011 budget deal remain sketchy, Republican plans are said to include hundreds of millions of dollars in cuts to the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, TB, and Malaria and the President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief.

Those cuts would cost at least 1 million lives around the world to AIDS and related diseases, Health GAP said.

Congressional leaders are reportedly still negotiating over whether to re-impose a policy barring Washington, D.C. from using local tax dollars to finance needle exchange programs.

Washington, D.C., has the highest rate of HIV infection in the country - in part because syringe exchange was barred for years by previous Republican Congresses, resulting in thousands of preventable HIV infections.

'House Republicans are once again abusing Washington, D.C. residents in a play to enact their extremist ideology - putting thousands of lives at risk so they can please their base. Syringe exchange programs have been proven effective and cities around the world have cut their HIV rates through their use. Denying science-based HIV prevention to Washington, D.C., leaves blood on the hands of Republican leaders,' said Larry Bryant of D.C. Fights Back, a local AIDS activist group.

Health GAP describes itself as 'an organization of U.S.-based AIDS and human rights activists, people living with HIV/AIDS, public health experts, fair trade advocates, and concerned individuals who campaign against policies of neglect and avarice that deny treatment to millions and fuel the spread of HIV.'

According to Republican sources, the protest took place outside of an office that Cantor uses infrequently. He has a large suite of offices in the Capitol because of his position in the Republican Congressional leadership.

Cantor did not comment on the protest.

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