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November 14, 2007

Activists “Die-In” to Save Lives in Puerto Rico

Activists, people living with HIV and employees of the New York-based AIDS service organization Housing Works convened earlier today, November 14, in Foley Square in downtown Manhattan to call for immediate federal control of Puerto Rico’s AIDS funding. Other attending organizations included CitiWide Harm Reduction, Unidos Danole Cara al Sida (UDCAS) NY and the Washington Heights CORNER Project.

The group held a press conference—which included speeches by Housing Works employees Tamara Oyola-Santiago and Marcelo Vanegas, among others—followed immediately by a march to the intersection of Broadway and Worth street, where a dozen protesters chanted “Puerto Rico AIDS Crisis: Save Lives Now!” before police intervened 20 minutes later. Protesters lay down in the middle of the street in a “die in,” requiring two dozen police officers to remove and arrest them. The group was released from custody roughly two hours later.

Fraudulent government activity, corruption and complacency have led to a noted lack of HIV/AIDS care in the U.S. commonwealth territory. While Puerto Rico received $58.4 million in Ryan White CARE Act funding last year, distribution to groups servicing the island’s 30,000 positive people has been slow.

Last December, the FBI, the IRS and the Human Services Office of the Inspector General confiscated thousands of files from the offices of Puerto Rico’s AIDS organizations and froze millions of dollars in Ryan White CARE Act Title I funds. In addition, hundreds wait for medication despite claims by the health department that there is no longer an AIDS Drug Assistance Program (ADAP) waiting list.

Today’s action was preceded yesterday by a “phone zap” aimed at Puerto Rican Governor Anibal Acevedo Vila and San Juan Mayor Jorge Santini Padilla in order to draw attention to Puerto Rico’s poor management of AIDS funds. Activists with Housing Works, the Latino Commission on AIDS, the Community HIV/AIDS Mobilization Project, UDCAS NY and UDCAS Puerto Rico participated in the zap, keeping phones ringing to ensure the attention of the two leaders.

For updates on this and other Housing Works actions, visit

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