Puerto Rican delegation urges: Release of Oscar Lo?pez Rivera and Protests PROMESA
The Puerto Rican Cultural Center sent several representatives from Vida/SIDA to the 2016 United States Conference on AIDS (USCA) held at the Diplomat Hotel in Hollywood, Florida from September 15-18th, 2016. This marks the 20th anniversary of the conference and a unique and exciting time to be a part of the ght against the epidemic. The PRCC delegation took part in this educational and collaborative convergence of several diverse forces in the national HIV/ AIDS community. In fact, the theme of “convergence” was featured heavily through promotional materials and two large plenary sessions featuring prominent speakers such as Dr. David Ho and MSNBC political commentator Melissa Harris-Perry. They spoke of converging quantitative and qualitative research methods, biomedical and behavioral approaches, prevention and treatment of the disease.
In addition to the larger plenary sessions, attendees participated in a number of seminars, roundtables, workshops and poster presentations. There was also an exhibition hall where PRCC-Vida/SIDA had a booth along with several other USCA conference partners, government agencies, community-based organizations, pharmaceutical companies and many others.
On the Final day of the conference, a large plenary luncheon took place in which the topic of the economic crisis in Puerto Rico and its effect on HIV prevention services was presented to a gathering of hundreds of conference attendees. A comprehensive discussion led by Jose Joaquin Mulinelli-Rodriguez of Coai, Inc., Dr. Carlos E. Rodriguez-Diaz from the University of Puerto Rico and Dra. Adriana Garriga-Lopez from Columbia University detailed multi-faceted approaches to address the multi-faceted crisis on the island.
The HIV/AIDS epidemic was summarized epidemiologically and socioeconomically and contextualized for the crowd.
The Puerto Rican delegation was one of the largest in attendance at USCA and this luncheon served as a crucial platform to advocate for the rights and dignity of the people on the island. While the attendees learned about HIV prevalence rates and a lack of prevention or treatment services, they also received a comprehensive examination of the current political, economic and social status of Puerto Rico with the United States.
The panelists demonstrated how the recent passage of the PROMESA Bill, which establishes an appointed (not elected) oversight board on the island essentially nullifies the right of Puerto Ricans to fight for their economic well-being. The speakers also mentioned the continued imprisonment of Oscar Lopez Rivera and the fight to free him after three and half decades despite calls from multiple Nobel Peace Prize winners as well as an international coalition of human rights, religious, labor, and business leaders. The ongoing injustice of Oscar’s incarceration in addition to the aforementioned geopolitically and economically calculated policy decisions by the U.S. government were used to help elucidate the several factors at play in the crisis in Puerto Rico on a large national stage.
by Ahmed Chaundry, PRCC Prevention Project