“Now more than ever”: Marchers in Vienna call for protection of human rights and HIV
21 July 2010
Downtown Vienna was the backdrop for last night’s HIV and human rights march and rally on 20 July. The public event took place during the 18th International AIDS Conference which has brought some 20,000 activists and HIV professionals to the Austrian capital.
Mr Michel Sidibé, executive director of UNAIDS addressed the rally at the end of the march saluting the thousands of marchers as being “a force for change… a force for human rights.”
“It is a great privilege to be here with you at the most exciting event of the Conference. To rally with you for Human Rights! To end this epidemic we must hold governments, civil society, the UN, ourselves accountable to deliver on human rights.”
Mr Sidibé then introduced on stage UNAIDS’ latest global Goodwill Ambassador and international singer Ms Annie Lennox who headlined the rally. “I turn now to introduce a woman and a human rights activist you all know very well. An artist, a singer and a star. And we are blessed that she has given her heart and her song and her voice to help us against HIV! Ms. Annie Lennox!”
Ms Lennox gave a live performance and showed short films on impact of HIV on the lives of people and about her SING campaign.
Ms Lennox spoke about how AIDS affects all of us - mothers, fathers, sons and daughters - and she emphasized how we must end the darkness of stigma and discrimination.
In solidarity Ms Lennox and the audience stood in silence to honour the millions of lives already lost to the epidemic. All the lights were turned off at the famous Heldenplatz (Hero's Square) and Ms Lennox encouraged the marchers to turn on their lighters and mobiles as a personal symbol of re-commitment to the fight against AIDS.
Other high-level participants who addressed the rally following the march included the Austrian Minister of Health Mr Alois Stöger, Dr Michel Kazatchkine, Executive Director of the Global Fund to fight AIDS, TB and Malaria, and Ms Sonja Wehsely, Executive Councillor for Public Health and Social Affairs of the City of Vienna, and members of civil society.
Human Rights and HIV: Now More Than Ever
The march was a conference-affiliated event led by a global coalition of organizations including Lennox’s SING campaign and the International AIDS Society, and supported by the Open Society Institute and local partners including Aids Hilfe Wien and Homosexuelle Initiative Wien (HOSI).
The Now More Than Ever campaign has grown through three successive International AIDS Conferences: from Toronto in 2006, where the joint statement was first published; to Mexico City in 2008, where activists organized the first-ever Human Rights Networking Zone and march and rally for human rights at an International AIDS Conference; to Vienna, where thousands gathered for a march, rally and concert for human rights.