HIV activists arrested for occupying Kevin McCarthy’s office in protest

HIV/Aids activists occupy Kevin McCarthy's office.

Several people have been arrested after holding a sit-in at the office of House Speaker Kevin McCarthy as part of a protest for HIV/Aids funding.

Protesters were likely motivated by recent Republican efforts to defund the US President’s Emergency Plan for Aids Relief (PEPFAR).

PEPFAR, first introduced by President George W. Bush in 2003, is credited with saving millions of lives and has been reauthorized three different times due to its resounding success.

Although President Joe Biden had indicated earlier this year that he planned to extend the program for a fourth time, it’s currently under threat by House Republicans and conservative organisations over false claims that PEPFAR funds abortions.

PEPFAR is also under threat by the House’s most far-right Republicans in the so-called ‘Freedom Caucus’ who are threatening to shut down the government if their demands aren’t met by the end of the month.

Those demands include reducing military aid to Ukraine, funding anti-immigration measures at the US-Mexico border, and impeaching President Joe Biden.

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If an agreement isn’t reached before 30 September, it could mean the expiration of PEPFAR, which would be detrimental to those living with HIV/Aids.

Staging a protest against Republican threats to defund the program, at least six activists occupied Kevin McCarthy’s Washington DC office on Monday (12 September).

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As part of the demonstration, protesters were seen sitting on the floor of McCarthy’s office and chanting their demands for the Republican House Speaker to reauthorise key PEPFAR provisions.

Among those arrested were Housing Works CEO Charles King and Health GAP Executive Director Asia Russell.

In a statement seen by LGBTQ Nation, King said: “PEPFAR has saved millions of lives. 

“It is criminal for some members of Congress to treat it as a political football….PEPFAR has been essential in helping people in developing countries flatten the curve of HIV transmission. 

“The United States has committed to the international goal of ending AIDS by 2030, and we cannot do that if PEPFAR is threatened.”

In her own statement, Russell added: “House Republicans are playing political games with the lives of countless adults, children, and newborns with HIV and most affected by HIV across the globe and here in the United States. Extremists in the House have sunk to a new low. Never in the 20-year history of PEPFAR have lawmakers pulled such outrageous stunts.”

King, Russell, and their fellow protesters were handcuffed and escorted out of the office by Capitol Police.

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