AIDS advocates call on public to continue boycott of Hershey Company chocolates over Hershey Trust’s Milton Hershey School’s rejection of a 13-year-old boy due to the teen’s HIV-positive status
Carrying signs and banners that say, “No Kisses for Hershey: www.EndHIVStigma.org,” advocates will demand that Hershey—which funds the school—denounce the discrimination and enroll the boy
NEW YORK (March 13, 2012)⎯AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF) is calling on the public to continue a nationwide boycott of the Hershey Company over the Milton Hershey School’s AIDS discrimination. The Milton Hershey School—a prestigious boarding school for low-income scholarship students funded by the Hershey Company—recently rejected a 13-year-old boy for admission citing his HIV-positive status as the reason, misguidedly calling him a “direct threat to the health and safety of others.” AHF and AIDS advocates are calling on the public to forgo all Hershey products when buying candy and chocolates.
In New York City, on Thursday, March 15th from 11:00am to 12:30pm, dozens of AIDS advocates—some dressed in “Hershey Kisses” costumes—will gather and protest outside the flagship Hershey Store in Times Square carrying signs and banners that say: “No Kisses for Hershey.” The group has also launched a website www.EndHIVStigma.org where the public can learn more about the case, learn the facts about HIV/AIDS and send e-letters to three Hershey Company board members who also sit on the board of the Milton Hershey School Trust, urging them to denounce the discrimination and facilitate the boy’s admission into the school.
- WHAT: HERSHEY STORE BOYCOTT & AIDS PROTEST—‘No Kisses for Hershey’ boycott targets AIDS discrimination at Milton Hershey School
- WHEN: (New York protest) Thursday, March 15th from 11:00 AM to 12:30 PM (Eastern)
- WHERE: In front of the Hershey Store, Times Square 48th and Broadway (1593 B’way) New York NY 10019
- WHO: AIDS advocates with banners & signs, “No Kisses for Hershey: www.EndHIVStigma.org
- CONTACTS: Jessica Reinhart, AHF Grassroots Community Manager Cell: (323) 203-6146
“We are asking the public to send the message to Hershey that there are ‘No Kisses for Hershey’ as Hershey continues on its path of discrimination and ignorance as displayed by the Hershey School’s rejection of an otherwise qualified 13 year-old student due solely to his HIV-positive status,” said Michael Weinstein, President of AIDS Healthcare Foundation. “Ultimately, it is the Hershey Company itself, as the main funder of the school, that must answer for the decision not to admit the boy—a decision fueled by prejudice and fear. If Hershey is truly a company that believes in its social responsibility creed of ‘commitment to consumers, community and children,’ it will denounce this illegal and repugnant discrimination and enroll the boy at the school. In the meanwhile, we plan to use the power of pocketbook to shame Hershey by asking the chocolate-buying public to forgo buying Hershey candy.”
Shortly after news broke just before World AIDS Day, December 1, 2011, about the school’s rejection of the HIV-positive boy, AIDS Healthcare Foundation hosted a press conference in Washington D.C. to announce the launch of a campaign against HIV/AIDS discrimination at Hershey School in Pennsylvania and in support of the federal discrimination lawsuit filed on behalf of a 13-year-old boy who was rejected for admission at Hershey explicitly due to his HIV-positive status. At the event, AHF announced its willingness to contribute up to $50,000 to support a lawsuit filed by AIDS Law Project of Pennsylvania on behalf of the boy and expressed its moral outrage at the case.
According to the Associated Press (Claim: Hershey School Rejects HIV-Positive Pa. Boy, By Peter Jackson, 12/1/11): “A private boarding school connected with the Hershey chocolate company says it was trying to protect other students when it denied admission to a Philadelphia-area teenager because he is HIV-positive. The AIDS Law Project of Pennsylvania filed a lawsuit on behalf of the unidentified boy in U.S. District Court in Philadelphia on Wednesday, claiming the Milton Hershey School for disadvantaged students violated the Americans with Disabilities Act. School officials acknowledged that the 13-year-old boy was denied admission because of his medical condition. They said they believed it was necessary to protect the health and safety of the 1,850 others enrolled in the residential institution, which serves children in pre-kindergarten to 12th grade and where students live in homes with 10 to 12 others.”
“The ignorance displayed by the Hershey School’s leadership is unacceptable and demonstrates just how much work there is still to be done to dismantle the fear and misinformation that still surrounds this disease more than 25 years after Ryan White,” added AHF’s Weinstein.
Ryan White was an American teenager from Kokomo, Indiana who, in the mid-1980s, was expelled from middle school because he was HIV-positive. A lengthy legal battle with the school ensued and White became a galvanizing force in educating the country about HIV & AIDS at a time when misinformation about the disease was widespread. After his death in 1990, the U.S. Congress passed a major piece of legislation named in his honor, the Ryan White CARE Act, which provides funding for HIV/AIDS programs for low-income American.
“It is unfortunate that Hershey has shown such a shocking lack of knowledge of basic facts about HIV and how it is spread, and are instead reacting with ignorance and prejudice,” said Jessica Reinhart, Grassroots Community Manager for AIDS Healthcare Foundation and a key organizer of the Valentine’s protest. “This is an excellent opportunity to educate the public about HIV, including the fact that people who are living with HIV/AIDS do not pose a significant risk to others and generally do not require any special medical attention that cannot be obtained through normal medical visits.”
She added: “In addition, people should know that recent studies have shown that people with HIV on treatment are up to 96% non-infectious. Because of this, those on treatment are not a threat to health and safety of others. The young man in question does not pose a ‘direct threat’ to anyone and Hershey should admit him into the school to begin the education that he desires.”