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AIDS Activists Crash Global Business Council Gala

AIDS activists disrupted the Global Business Council Gala in New York this week by land and sea to protest corporate members' refusal to pay for AIDS drugs for African workers. Companies like Coca Cola -- Africa's largest sole private sector employer -- for refusing t pay for HIV treatment for most workers.

--Activists disrupt ceremony by land and by sea--

Wednesday June 12, 2002(New York, New York): During multiple disruptions of the awards ceremony Wednesday June 12 of the Global Business Council on HIV/AIDS, members of the AIDS activist group ACT UP and Health GAP demanded multinational corporations like Coca-Cola pay for medicines for employees in developing countries facing death from untreated HIV disease.

While activists inside the gala interrupted the ceremony, confronting members of Anglo-American, Coca-Cola, and other companies with massive workforces in Africa, other ACT UP members chanted from bullhorns while floating alongside the gala at Pier 60 in a boat "Coke lies, workers die, AIDS treatment now!" The ceremony, sponsored by the Global Business Council on HIV/AIDS, was emceed by Dan Rather and attended by Kofi Annan, Bill Clinton, Dick Holbrooke, and other luminaries.

"Crumbs from Coca-Cola and other corporations for workers dying with AIDS are nothing to celebrate," said Sharonann Lynch of Health GAP and ACT UP New York. "Companies are patting themselves on the back, but they have skirted their most fundamental obligation -- paying for treatment for their HIV positive workers."

At Coca-Cola's annual shareholder¹s meeting in April 2002 activists launched a campaign singling out the beverage company, the largest sole private sector employer in Africa, for their refusal to pay for HIV treatment for workers in their bottling and distribution facilities. Coca-Cola, despite its massive African employee base, has offered little more than billboard and truck space to African country governments for anti-AIDS advertisements and safe sex materials. Coca-Cola has only agreed to permit treatment access for a handful of HIV positive employees they consider their 'direct employees.'

"Multinational companies have no laurels to rest on,² said ACT UP New York co-founder and HIV-positive activist Eric Sawyer. "Coca-Cola, Anglo-American and other members of the Global Business Council have reneged on their promises to provide antiretroviral treatment and care to their workers and their families. Medical apartheid is nothing to be proud of."

"How can Coke make so much profit from the labor of HIV positive employees but refuse to pay for AIDS medicines?" asked Amanda Lugg of ACT UP New York.

"Africa is Coke's largest growth market. Coke's inaction is unconsionable."

As attendees dined inside, protesters knocked on the windows, held up signs, and chanted names of companies that had shirked their responsibility in paying for workplace treatment.

"Last year Coca-Cola and Anglo-American grabbed headlines with announcements of workplace initiatives. In the past twelve months, Anglo-American has reneged twice on its treatment policy, while Coca-Cola has failed to treat its workers and their families," said protester Eustacia Smith of ACT UP New York. "Meanwhile there are 8,000 deaths and 14,000 new HIV infections every day."

ACT UP New York * Health GAP
Contact: John Riley, (917) 653-7267
--onsite--Asia Russell, (215) 474-9329



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