Yesterday over 2,000 people came down to the National Mall to attend the "Keep the Promise" rally and to march through downtown Washington to call attention to the issue of AIDS and HIV.
The march and rally coincided with the International AIDS Conference that began yesterday at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center. The group called upon world leaders and lawmakers to "do more" to combat HIV and AIDS.
The event was organized by the AIDS Healthcare Foundation.
“We believe today will be the start of a turning point in the battle against AIDS,” said AIDS Healthcare Foundation President Michael Weinstein during a pre-rally press conference, reported the Washington Blade.
“Today is not just about a march on Washington to end AIDS; this is about a rebirth of AIDS activism across this country. Our message today is the war against AIDS has not been won. Our message today is that the world must keep its promise. Now is not the time to withdraw and also today that the voices of people living with HIV in this organization will be heard,” Weinstein said.
According to the Washington Blade, over 2,000 were in attendance.
Prior to the march, a rally was held on the National Mall near the Washington Monument. Many prominent names came on stage during the rally, including comedienne Margaret Cho (emcee), keynote by former Ambassador Andrew Young, the Rev. Al Sharpton, United Nations ambassador Andrew Young, Tavis Smiley, Dr. Cornel West, and a performance by musician Wyclef Jean.
Numerous people were at the rally, wearing "Keep the Promise" t-shirts and raising their red umbrellas.
Thousands hold up their red umbrellas during the "Keep the Promise" rally in Washington DC on July 23.
AIDS Healthcare Foundation had criticized President Obama earlier in the week, noting his non-attendance at the conference. He is, however, scheduled to address the conference in a video message later this week. The President is also being criticized by the organization for his decision to cut AIDS funding by about $214 million for fiscal year 2013.
"If the decision not to address the 20,000 leading AIDS scientists, researchers, medical providers, patients and advocates from around the world attending the AIDS conference in Washington next week was President Obama’s own, then shame on him. If it was a decision based on advice from his staff, then he is being ill served by his advisors,” Tom Myers, Chief of Public Affairs and General Counsel for AHF, had said.
Yesterday, the President had traveled to Aurora, Colo., to meet with victims of the tragic movie theatre shooting that occurred prior to the weekend (Note: What appeared to this reporter to be Marine One had flown over the National Mall at one point during the afternoon).
This is the first time since 1990 the International AIDS Conference is being held in the states, due to a (now-lifted) ban placed on people with HIV entering the U.S. According to 680 News, this ban was lifted in 2010 by President Obama, "finishing a process begun under the Bush administration."
The International AIDS Conference is scheduled to run for six days.