Musical guests joining civil rights leader Julian Bond onstage include R&B star Brandy, artists Kaoz and Conya Doss, and the Shaw High School Marching Band, whose performances will inspire the crowd before the March begins
Hundreds of advocates and community leaders are expected for the “Keep the Promise on HIV/AIDS” March and Rally on Saturday, May 11th beginning at 12:00 noon in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum Plaza and ending with a rally and free concert at the Renaissance Hotel at 24 Public Square in Cleveland, Ohio. The event is the fourth U.S. march — supported by “Keep the Promise” marches in Kenya, South Africa, Swaziland, and other countries severely hampered by funding cuts to the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) — in a series calling on officials to commit to stopping AIDS. Cleveland’s rally features Julian Bond, one of America’s foremost civil rights leaders. Musical talent includes a performance by the Shaw High School Marching Band, local Cleveland artists Kaoz and Conya Doss, and R&B songstress and superstar actress Brandy.
Created by AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF) the “Keep the Promise” campaign brings together local and national advocates along with spiritual and political leaders to remind elected officials that the fight against HIV/AIDS is not yet won. To honor the awareness raised by the campaign and its importance in Ohio, Cleveland Mayor Frank G. Jackson issued an official proclamation recognizing May 11, 2013 as “Keep The Promise Day.” The proclamation states that “the City of Cleveland joins local, national and international groups to express our support for Keep the Promise Day and the initiatives to prevent the spread of HIV/AIDS and provide access to and utilization of HIV/AIDS prevention, treatment, and support services to those affected by HIV/AIDS.” Additional supporters of the Cleveland “Keep the Promise” rally and march include the AIDS Taskforce of Greater Cleveland (ATGC) and Cincinnati’s Caracole, Inc.
This fourth “Keep the Promise” march follows the inaugural “Keep the Promise” March on Washington in July of last 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. Reverend Sharpton was among the special guests who participated, including Wyclef Jean, Ambassador Andrew Young, Tavis Smiley, Dr. Cornel West, Margaret Cho and Archbishop Desmond Tutu. In his rousing address, Reverend Sharpton called on the faith community to rise to the challenge of fighting HIV/AIDS in their communities. Watch an excerpt of his inspiring speech in the following short video: “Keep the Promise Webisode 3: The War on AIDS Has Not Been Won.”
Advocates from cities throughout Ohio—including Dayton, Toledo, Cincinnati, and Columbus—will be traveling by bus to Cleveland to support the “Keep the Promise” goals and join in the rally and march. Participants are advocating for: increased and maintained funding for HIV/AIDS prevention and care; the pharmaceutical companies to reduce AIDS drug prices; support for HIV prevention programs; and support for healthcare reform.
“This march in Cleveland sends a message to national, state, and local officials to ‘Keep the Promise’—that now is not the time to retreat in this fight. In order to stop AIDS in this country and around the world, there must be mobilized efforts like this one to demand access to treatment and medication; to urge drug companies to lower their inflated prices; to support and to ensure equity in HIV prevention, treatment, and care services for all people living with HIV,” said Terri Ford, AIDS Healthcare Foundation’s Chief of Global Advocacy. “The question is no longer can we end AIDS, but will we end the AIDS?”
According to a report from Harvard Law School’s Center for Health Law and Policy Innovation, approximately 10,000 Ohioans are currently living with HIV, and another 8,600 individuals are living with AIDS. However, these numbers only account for people who are aware of their HIV/AIDS status, and national estimates project 20% of people living with HIV/AIDS have not been tested and are unaware of their status. According to an HIV/AIDS Surveillance Program conducted by the Ohio Department of Health, men were consistently diagnosed at a far higher rate than women between 2007 and 2011 (about 78% men to 22% women).
Consistent with national statistics, HIV/AIDS incidence was highest in Ohio’s African American population, which accounted for over 56% of new diagnoses for each of the five years tracked in the Department of Health report. Rates in the African American community have been slowly but consistently rising since 2007. Also on the rise are rates among youth aged 13-24, particularly among 20- to 24-year-olds, who went from accounting for 1% of new diagnoses in 2007 to 4% in 2011. Though the highest incidence by age was among people aged 45 – 64, those age groups showed a slow but steady decline in new diagnoses over the years studied, a trend that can only be mirrored in the younger demographics through an increase in prevention education.
“Access to preventative education and access to affordable treatment lies squarely at the feet of the state and federal governments,” said Joseph Terrill, AHF’s Director of Community Mobilization. “Young Ohioans deserve a chance to stay HIV-negative by receiving the preventative education that will keep them safe. More importantly, all Ohioans living with HIV and AIDS have the right to affordable medication – that means pharmaceutical giants like Gilead need to lower the prices of the HIV treatments they manufacture, and the Obama Administration must re-authorize the Ryan White CARE Act, which provided over 17,000 people with treatment and care in 2010.”
Organizations from across the state have signed on in support of the “Keep the Promise” march, with partners including: The City of Cleveland, Cuyahoga Office of Homeless Services, Miami Valley POZ 4 POZ, Cleveland’s Metro Hospital, Ebony Sisters Campaigning for AIDS Prevention Education (ESCAPE) from Columbus, Dayton’s First Baptist Church, Kettering’s Harmony Creek Church, and the ADAP Educational Initiative from Columbus.
Also in attendance at the March will be AHF’s Condom Nation a safer sex initiative that aims to distribute 50 million free condoms this year in the U.S. through a national tour of a 72-foot custom-wrapped “Condom Nation”-themed big rig.
A “Keep the Promise” march in Atlanta, Georgia on November 3, 2012 served 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. The third “Keep the Promise” rally and march—this time in New York City – was held in April and featured both a rousing concert and an inspiring march across the Brooklyn Bridge.