Everyone was wearing the same T-shirt: black, with a pink triangle near the neck and white letters underneath, SILENCE = DEATH. The crowd was about three hundred strong, filling a side street in New York’s West Village, and many were carrying the same image on signs. An elderly man in a leather jacket spoke into a microphone. ‘In 1989 we shut down trading on the New York Stock Exchange, the only time trading has ever been stopped by a mass demonstration!’ There were cheers. ‘In 1992 we held the Ashes Action, where we dumped the ashes of Aids victims onto the White House lawn – right in George Bush’s backyard!’
The 21st International Aids Conference was in Durban last week. The last time it was held here, 16 years ago, Aids denialism in South Africa was rife, people were dying on the front lawns of hospitals, unable to access treatment, and President Thabo Mbeki had announced that Aids was caused not by a virus, but by poverty and poor nourishment. A lot of progress has been made since then.