Between 1,100 and 1,200 supporters participated in AIDS Healthcare Foundation’s “Keep the Promise on AIDS” march and rally on Saturday, May 11, in Cleveland, Ohio. The event — the fourth in the U.S. of a global series calling on officials to commit to stopping AIDS — featured Julian Bond, one of America’s foremost civil rights leaders. Musical guests included R&B songstress and superstar actress Brandy, local Cleveland artists Kaoz and Conya Doss, and a performance by the Shaw High School Marching Band.
“We thank Cleveland Mayor Frank G. Jackson for the proclamation of today as “Keep the Promise Day”, a welcome first for our Keep the Promise cities,” AHF President Michael Weinstein said at the march. “Every citizen of Ohio, of the United States, and of the world as a whole has a right to good health, education to prevent the spread of HIV, and treatment if they are living with the virus. The Obama Administration must Keep the Promise to global communities reliant of PEPFAR as much as to local American communities like Cleveland who rely on legislation like the Ryan White CARE Act, which provides lifesaving prevention, care and treatment services to thousands.”
The crowd of advocates – some of whom traveled by bus from cities including Dayton, Toledo, Cincinnati, and Columbus – gathered at the historic Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum Plaza on Cleveland’s waterfront at 12 noon on Saturday before commencing a processing through the streets of Cleveland to the Grand Ballroom of the Renaissance Hotel, where a free concert and speeches inspired the crowd in their joined call for President Obama to continue funding crucial global AIDS programs like the Presidents Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) and The Global Fund to Fight Tuberculosis, AIDS, and Malaria. Among the distinguished speakers were Bond, Cleveland City Council Member Joe Cimperman, Ohio State Representative Nickie Antonio, and Ohio State Senator Nina Turner.
“We must build a new sense of urgency in America so that no one accepts the idea that the presence of HIV and AIDS is inevitable,” said Bond in his speech. “We must advocate for justice in the fight against HIV/AIDS, just as we did in the movement for civil rights.”
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.” Major supporters of the Cleveland “Keep the Promise” rally and march include the AIDS Taskforce of Greater Cleveland (ATGC) and Cincinnati’s Caracole, Inc.
Additional organizations from across the state 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.
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. 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.