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JULY 1, 2002
9:47 AM
Sharonann Lynch 212-674-9598
AIDS Activists Criticize Coca-Cola's in New York Gay Pride Parade June 30, 2002
NEW YORK - July 1 - In a Gay Rights parade criticized by many activists as too commercial, AIDS activists bucked the trend sporting a 25 foot coke bottle on a float framed with banners critical of Coca-Cola's decision to limit treatment of its African HIV positive employees to those that work for Coke International. The giant coke bottle read, "We Let Workers Die-Coke in Africa" Underneath the bottles a 25 foot banner read "AIDS Treatment Now" The protesters carried banners reading "ACT UP: Stop Global AIDS" and "Coke's Apartheid" Many carried black signs reading "Silence Equals Death" referring to the thousands of Coca-Cola employees in Africa, and the millions more of uninsured African's that will die for lack of treatment this year.

"We felt the need to tell the community that Coca-Cola doesn't provide AIDS care to its workers in Africa, said ACT UP member Sharonann Lynch. "Coke promised to provide health care for all of its workers a year ago in June but then claimed only Coke's international division in Africa was covered. The good press they got from that announcement was based on a sham."

ACT UP chose Pride to reach out to a community still reeling from AIDS among its ranks. Hundreds of thousands of lesbian/gay/bisexual/transgender and their allies typically take part in the New York City Pride march.

"The response of the crowd was great, it doesn't take to long to explain to one of Coke's favorite consumer markets that Coca-Cola doesn't really care about AIDS in Africa." Lynch added. "Likewise, it does not take much effort to align Coke's image with needless deaths of their workers of HIV/AIDS due to lack of treatment."

On June 12, ACT UP crashed a gala for the Global Business Council on HIV AIDS in Manhattan for corporations like Coke to receive awards for work to fight AIDS in developing countries. Attending were executives from Coca-Cola, Kofi Annan, Bill Clinton, and other dignitaries and business leaders.

ACT UP members chanted from bullhorns while floating alongside the gala at Pier 60 in a boat "Coke lies, workers die, AIDS treatment now!" Activists inside the gala interrupted Bill Clinton, while outside, activists dropped a banner creating a backdrop behind Clinton "Coke and Big Biz: Treat HIV+ Workers Now. ACT UP."

Informed sources close to the Global Business Council on HIV AIDS said Coca-Cola was originally slated to receive an award praising its policies on AIDS in Africa until activists exposed Coke's sham treatment program. Activists plan to carry the campaign against Coca-Cola to the International AIDS conference to demand an immediate change in its HIV/AIDS policy.


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