(September 12) The Campaign to End AIDS (C2EA), a new national grassroots movement supported by AIDS and community groups across the country, will continue to organize hundreds of local events and ten cross-country caravans this fall while making some scheduling changes due to the impact of Hurricane Katrina, organizers said today.

"Many of the same churches, service groups and community members that want to house and feed folks on the C2EA caravans are currently sheltering Katrina survivors," said Charles King, C2EA co-chair. "A few weeks will allow us to work out alternate plans where they're needed and keep these historic efforts going — our voices won't be silenced."

C2EA organizers in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama feel strongly that the Campaign must go on, even if Katrina delays some events and caravans. "C2EA leaders in states affected by Katrina need to deal with the reality on the ground and ensure an adequate response that will save lives," said Thelma Wright of North Carolina, a C2EA national co-chair. "At the same time, they told us that our nation needs to hear about how HIV/AIDS is devastating their communities. That makes it more important than ever for all of us to move forward together".

Kathie Hiers, CEO of AIDS Alabama and Chair of the Southern AIDS Coalition, is one of the C2EA leaders urging that the campaign continue. "Southerners need the Campaign to End AIDS more than ever," said Hiers. "I feel very strongly about it, and I appreciate that with a chance to recover we'll come back better and stronger."

Many C2EA local events, including rallies and marches, prayer breakfasts, concerts and advocacy days will continue as planned. Some events will now focus on support and fundraising for Katrina HIV/AIDS relief efforts, as well as a call for strong new government action to strengthen and heal wounded communities.

"People living with HIV/AIDS understand how government inaction can lead to needless suffering and death," said Walt Senterfitt of Los Angeles, another C2EA national co-chair. "Sadly, as AIDS activists, we are all much too familiar with this systemic inaction -- particularly when it comes to poor people, people of color and other marginalized people. It's our duty to keep our country's eyes opened to these mass inequalities and their deadly consequences," said Senterfitt.

Ten C2EA caravans planned for this fall will still travel across the country to Washington, DC but will kick off on October 15, about four weeks later than planned.

C2EA activists said the national response to the Katrina disaster may allow their message to be better heard in the days and weeks ahead.

"There are natural disasters, and there are avoidable catastrophes," said Jean Ann Van Krevelen of Oklahoma, C2EA co-chair. "Our nation is beginning to understand the difference, and we're beginning to see that the government won't always take appropriate action unless the people demand it. We have what it takes to end AIDS right now — it's time for all of us to insist on simple actions that will save millions of lives."

Press contact: David Thorpe 212-967-1500 x159  c2eamedia@yahoo.com

[The following email was sent to C2EA organizers late last week.]

"I hope we realize that the people of New Orleans weren't just abandoned during the Hurricane. They were abandoned long ago - to murder and mayhem in their streets; to substandard schools; to dilapidated housing; to inadequate health care; to a pervasive sense of hopelessness."

— Barack Obama

Dear Members and Friends of Campaign to End AIDS,

First, thank you for all your extraordinary hard work and commitment to building a strong grassroots campaign that has allowed us to truly envision ending AIDS.

Second, thank you for your words of hope and promise of help during this time of grief and chaos. No one understands how government inaction can lead to needless suffering and death like AIDS activists. Sadly, as AIDS activists, we are all much too familiar with this systemic inaction — particularly when it comes to poor people, people of color and other marginalized people. It is our duty to make sure that our country's eyes continue to be opened to this mass inequality.

We, the steering committee of C2EA, are writing to inform you of a serious decision about the Campaign to End AIDS, the cross-country caravans and the 5 days of action in Washington, DC.

Most Caravans that were scheduled to start out between September 18 and 30 will now begin between October 16 and 25, and will arrive in Washington, DC by November 5.

Please note that some aspects of our caravans — particularly some of our local events — will continue as originally scheduled because the dates and concrete arrangements for some activities cannot be changed. We embrace all of these events as part of the Campaign to End AIDS. In other words LOCAL events and some other caravan activities will take place across the whole period from September 18 to November 5.

In addition, we are in the process of rethinking our planned "Five Days of Action" now tentatively rescheduled as four days: November 5-8 in Washington, DC. Each caravan will be brainstorming about refining goals for these days of action, and about how best to advance these goals. Local host committee facilitators and activists are encouraged to join in these discussions on caravan planning calls and e-mail lists.

The Executive Committee needs feedback by Tuesday, September 13 when they will sort through various suggestions and present recommendations and alternatives to the full Steering Committee for discussion and vote on Thursday, September 15.

This is your opportunity to share creative ideas for actions in DC that collectively reflect the importance of remembering the victims of Katrina, highlight government policies that increase racial disparity and keep healthcare out of reach of millions of Americans, and inspire our country to work towards a world without AIDS. Congress is expected to be in session while we are in Washington in November.

For more information, please go to www.c2ea.org and please be sure to participate on your regularly scheduled caravan conference calls and/or on your caravan e-list discussions. If you are not yet plugged into a caravan's calls or e-list, you can find out how by calling the national office at 202-408-0305 or e-mailing us at  info@campaigntoendaids.org.

The steering committee came to this hard decision after much deliberation. The full Steering Committee of 25 members plus more than 25 other C2EA staff and local activists met three times by phone over six days with much consultation between meetings with local committees. The decision was by a strong majority but was not unanimous and we recognized the goodwill and deep concern of everyone participating.

It is our hope that this extra time will build a stronger Campaign, more powerful caravans and even more memorable days of action in Washington, DC. It is our hope that rather than lose momentum and participants, we will grow even stronger and strengthen ourselves as a movement beyond November.

Thank you for fighting to end AIDS.

Campaign to End AIDS Executive Committee

Charles King, New York

Walt Senterfitt, California

Jean Ann Van Krevelen, Oklahoma

Thelma Wright, North Carolina

on behalf of the entire Steering Committee