I will begin with statistics, since often they are what first jumps into our minds when a crisis occurs. Cold, merciless, overwhelming statistics: 42,000,000 people suffer from HIV/AIDS in the world today, a quarter of them between age 15 and 24. Every day 15,000 people become infected with HIV/AIDS, over half of them between 15 and 24 years old. There are 14 million AIDS orphans across the globe.

The numbers, as horrifying as they are, do not begin to tell the story of pain, suffering and loss that is the reality of the global HIV/AIDS crisis.

The brilliance, creativity, companionship and love that have been lost to this indiscriminate killer is a tragedy of astonishing and devastating proportions.

But brilliance, creativity, companionship and love are exactly what we need to fight HIV/AIDS, and we can fight it. Our student body is deeply imbued with these qualities. From the innovative and unrelenting efforts of the Living Wage Coalition to the daily service activities of the D.C. Schools Project, from the discussion forums of the NAACP to the concern for the forgotten shown by the Prison Outreach Program, from HOPE to STAND, Georgetown students care.

We can and do change the injustices of our campus community, the Washington, D.C. area and the world. Now it is time for our generation and our student body to stand in hope against the global HIV/AIDS crisis that threatens to destroy our generation throughout the world. People suffer and die every day, and we have the power to change this; we are guilty of callous insensitivity and elitist indifference if we choose not to try.

Though the monster of HIV/AIDS often seems far too big to even attempt to slay, our potential is limitless and our resources are formidable.

This Saturday, at the Student Global AIDS Campaign’s Student March Against AIDS, victims’ voices call us to show our nation and our world that American students not only care about this issue, but demand that action is taken to fight HIV/AIDS now. This march, which will consist of 8,000 students from across the country to represent the 8,000 young people who are infected with HIV/AIDS every day, will be a powerful demonstration of support and insistence for immediate global action against AIDS.

Demands of the march include full funding of the global HIV/AIDS fund, an end to ineffective abstinence-only prevention programs, debt cancellation so that the nations most harshly-affected by HIV/AIDS can spend their resources fighting the disease rather than paying interest on decades-old loans, full funding and reauthorization of the Ryan White Comprehensive AIDS Resource Emergency Act and guaranteed access to affordable health care and treatment for those affected by HIV/AIDS.

President Bush and his administration have expressed a deep concern for the HIV/AIDS pandemic, promising billions of dollars in aid, supporting the Ryan White CARE Act, and encouraging 100 percent debt cancellation going back to before Bush’s first term.

Now we must hold our government accountable for its rhetoric and assure that the good intentions of our leaders are not lost in bureaucracy. We must do this because we care and because we can.

Richard Thayer is a sophomore in the College and a Georgetown AIDS Coalition board member.

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