Capitol Police arrest 29 AIDS activists following sit-ins

According to a statement put out by a member of Housing Works, an AIDS outreach organization that provides support services in New York, the protesters targeted the four lawmakers for their role in reinstating the ban on federal funding for needle-exchange programs last December.

“Our government should be embarrassed as this year’s host of the International AIDS Conference to have sneaked this into an unrelated bill under the cloak of night last December” wrote Charles King, CEO of Housing Works. “The U.S. cannot be any shining example to the rest of the world on how to end the AIDS epidemic when we’re still fighting foolish policies that reject what we know works.”


The issue of the use of federal funding for needle-exchange programs, particularly in the District of Columbia, has been a point of congressional contention for years.
In early 2011, the GOP-led House approved a bill preventing needle exchanges. Last April, Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.) said Congress had "killed" D.C. residents by not allowing them to pay for their own needle-exchange programs.
"We have the highest AIDS rate in the United States only because the Congress of the United States has killed — I used these words advisedly — killed men, women and children in the District of Columbia by keeping the District for 10 years from using needle exchange so that AIDS would spread throughout the city," she said on the House floor.

Norton and local D.C. officials have also struggled continuously to remove policy riders on federal budget bills banning the use of funds for needle-exchange programs.

Wednesday’s sit-ins against the ban were part of a larger series of protests across the country called the National Day of Action. 

Many of the groups participating in the protests are organized under the banner of The We Can End AIDS Coalition, which is planning a massive mobilization in the District on July 24, according to the statement.