The following is a guest post by Yale University sophomore David Carel, a member of the Student Global AIDS Campaign. Originally from Philadelphia, David is an economics major with aspirations to work in health economics and policy. During a speech given by House Majority Leader Rep. Eric Cantor (R-VA) on Thursday evening, David participated in a protest with other university students and community members expressing discontent with recent fiscal year (FY) 2011 budget cuts that included major cuts to global health programs.
Chants of, “Budget cuts kill, fund global health,” filled the streets of Cambridge, MA, Thursday evening. Students from Harvard, Yale, Dartmouth, Columbia and the New School, along with people living with AIDS and representatives from community groups from New York City and Boston, staged a demonstration at Harvard’s John F. Kennedy School of Government to protest the U.S. House of Representatives’ slashing of global health funding for fiscal year 2011. As Representative Eric Cantor (R-VA) prepared to address an audience on the economy, a horde of students gathered outside in “HIV Positive – AIDS Budget Cuts Kill” t-shirts, chanting and waving signs and banners in protest of the millions of lives that will be lost if these budget cuts are passed.
Additionally, nearly the entire Harvard contingent gained access to the speech itself in order to protest from within. Following the talk, the Harvard chapter of the Student Global AIDS Campaign managed to ask the first question to Cantor. Immediately as the question and answer session began, dozens of student AIDS activists rose in the audience as Harvard Sophomore Mythili Prabhu called upon Representative Cantor to return to the Conference Committee and restore the $1.5 billion in global health funding cuts passed by the House in the Continuing Resolution. As Cantor tragically evaded the commitment, claiming we do not have enough money and that America must focus instead on issues currently facing Americans like job creation, the group unveiled banners and began chanting in unison before leaving the talk to join the protesters outside.
As members of the Student Global AIDS Campaign (SGAC) and citizens committed to global health, we vow to continue to hold our elected officials accountable for the impending deaths that will result directly from these budget cuts. We are a tight knit group of students hailing from colleges across the east coast building movements on our campuses to fight for global health, targeting Republicans and Democrats alike.
Last fall we protested President Obama’s flat funding for PEPFAR in demonstrations in Philadelphia, New York, New Haven, Bridgeport and Boston. Just this past Tuesday, SGAC students at the University of Pennsylvania confronted potential Republican presidential candidate Newt Gingrich at an event in Philadelphia. Given the current state of global health funding, we promise to continue to protest Republican officials this year at public appearances until they rescind these lethal funding cuts. In a few weeks we will flock to New Hampshire to confront Republican presidential candidates on the campaign trail to ensure commitments in support of global health funding.
For years we have watched with pride as America has demonstrated great leadership in the battle against AIDS and other diseases. Now is no time to quit.