On Tuesday, Sept 22, activists from Philadelphia, New York City, Pittsburgh and other cities held a mock funeral procession to demand better policies for addressing the AIDS pandemic, a day ahead of the arrival of delegates for the G-20.

The approximately 50 participants in the New Orleans-style funeral march drew a mix of interest, irritation, and amusement from onlookers in the business district of downtown Pittsburgh.

At the head of the funeral march where pallbearers carried a cardboard coffin, a man shouted into a microphone while someone else carried a portable amplifier, “when people with AIDS are under attack, what do we do ?” and marchers shouted in unison, “fight back!”

Amidst the early afternoon bustle of an weekday, the demonstrators repeated this call-and-answer and similar chants as the funeral march made its way around the perimeter of the David L. Lawrence Convention Center, the site of the G-20 Summit later this week.

Erica Goldberg works with ACT UP Philadelphia. She said global health is not on the agenda of the G-20 Summit. “One of the things that some of the G-20 nations have promised us is funding for the global fund to fight, TB, malaria, and HIV/AIDS. This is all really important, especially if we want to meet the United Nations’ Millennium goal of eradicating these diseases by 2015. As of right now, this won’t be met. We have to hold our leaders accountable. They are the ones making decisions for the poorer countries,” Goldberg said.

She commented on the timing of the demonstration. “We wanted this to be the first thing they (the G-20 delegates) see. They’re coming here tomorrow. We’re holding them accountable. This needs to be on the agenda.”

She said AIDS activists chose Sept 22, two days before the official start of the G-20 Summit, and one day before the arrival of the delegates, so as to not have to compete with other protests. Also, she said the AIDS activists figured there would be less of a chance of conflict with police if they staged their protest earlier in the week.

“We hope that this will hit the papers tomorrow, that it’s the first thing they see when they walk in, that they have this on their conscience and know we’re not going away,” Goldberg said. She urges people to contact legislators about supporting the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria. “President Obama, as much as I love him, went back on his promise to fulfill the funding,” Goldberg said.

She commented on how drug companies factor into all of this. “ Medication does not need to be this expensive. They can definitely lower their prices. We have big drug interests lobbying to prevent AIDS medication from getting” to developing nations.

Goldberg said debt cancellation for developing nations is a factor that comes into play. “When you don’t cancel debts of nations and they have to pay back loans to the IMF and the World Bank, they won’t have the funds necessary for getting AIDS medication, or they might get the medication but can’t pay the health professional because of their debt.

She said vested interested motivated by huge profits stand in the way of doing a better job of addressing tuberculosis, malaria, and HIV/AIDS. “We have the power, the ability, and the medication.”