Members of Saint Michael’s Student Global AIDS Campaign alongside other students and faculty of the Saint Michael’s community are organizing a rally/march for Friday, November 30 that will start at 2 p.m. from the office of Sen. Patrick Leahy ’61 (199 Main Street) and proceed up Church Street the office of Sen. Bernie Sanders (1 Church Street) in Burlington.
As part of a week of activities to observe World AIDS Day, which is December 1, these students will be encouraging the Vermont senators “to oppose the reallocation of funds budgeted for HIV/AIDS, refugee services, and other important services,” according to a statement from the organizers.
Students will be dressing in Western attire (cowboy hats, badges, etc.) that symbolize “the good, the bad, and the ugly” of the situation regarding national priorities and spending for AIDS and other essential programs. The students will also deliver a letter to the senators, as well as badges “to remind them that they stand for and represent us, the people. These badges also serves as symbols to demonstrate the magnitude of their commitment,” the statement continues.
One specific issue Saint Michael’s College is addressing arose in early July this year, the students say: “The Trump administration proposed to reallocate budgets from the Ryan White CARE Act (as well as funds from the National Institutes of Health, the Center for Disease Control and vital refugee support programs) in order to fund ICE and their endeavors to separate immigrant families and place kids in cages. St. Michael’s SGAC, as well as other members of the community, find even a proposal of this type to be a despicable act.”
“There is an innate evil in what is happening. This proposal not only undermines decades of HIV/AIDS healthcare rights, but also supports the injustice of separating family and imprisoning children,” said Josh Dionne ’20. SGAC member Jonah Hunt ’20 said, “The government has come a long way in HIV/AIDS treatment, but this would be a major step backwards. HIV/AIDS is still very much a bipartisan issue and we must stand up for the moral good.”
Students say they are hoping to outline the following to the senators:
- "HIV/AIDS is still prevalent across the nation, particularly among marginalized groups, and government support such as the Ryan White Care ACT, offering assistance to those suffering. Globally, the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief is bringing life-saving funding to millions. These essential programs represent the good.
- Immigration policy within the United States has become weaponized by the Trump administration. Among the worst of a series of cruel and deeply unethical policies, the separation of families and caging of kids are violations of basic human rights. This is the bad.
- Taking money from government support for individuals struggling to fund the jailing of immigrant children is damaging to both groups. Robbing the most vulnerable, including those with HIV/AIDS and refugees, undermines the struggle many already face while perpetuating the demonization of immigrants in this country. This is the ugly."
“The Saint Michael's College Student Global AIDS Campaign calls upon the Vermont Senate delegation to stay strong and lead the way to support the good, fight the bad and stop the ugly,” the groups statement concludes.
Key student organizers of the event along with Dionne are Anna Willassen ’20, Katherine Martin ’19 and Zach Nover ’20. Professor Patricia Siplon of the College's political science faculty advises the group.