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