SAN FRANCISCO — For the third day in a row, activists and police Thursday carried out their ritual street dance outside the view of most scientists here for the world's largest AIDS conference.
Just as promised in their press kit, members of the group ACT UP--AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power--dared police to arrest them. The police complied. Tote up another 50 arrests.
In all, 146 AIDS activists have been arrested, cited and released by San Francisco police since Tuesday as part of the group's campaign to call attention to issues they say are not dealt with by the AIDS conference.
The strategy Thursday was to march through the downtown Civic Center area to highlight the decline of AIDS services in San Francisco. After two hours, a group of the protesters sat down in the intersection of Van Ness Avenue and Market Street and lit a bonfire. Police said 50 people were arrested for failing to disperse.
The ACT UP protests began Tuesday, the day before the conference opened, with a march that tied up rush-hour traffic in the downtown financial district. In fact, it is drivers who are enduring the brunt of the protests, with key streets having been blocked off now for three afternoons in a row.
Today, members of the group's women's caucus plan to bind themselves with chains and red tape outside the conference.
Inside the convention, the World Health Organization gave delegates the latest grim statistics:
Six million to 8 million people (or about 1 in 400 adults worldwide) are infected with HIV. By the year 2000, WHO predicts, 15 to 20 million people may have been infected--many more if the virus begins spreading rapidly in Latin America and Asia.
A total of 263,051 cases of AIDS have been reported in 156 countries--9,000 cases in the last month alone. WHO estimates that the true toll may be closer to 700,000 cases.
In the United States there have been 132,510 cases of AIDS and 80,587 deaths. California has lost 17,440 people to AIDS. Most of the world's HIV-infected people are in tropical Africa, where the 3 million to 4 million infected are evenly split between men and women.
"For those of us living in the part of the world where health, hygiene, basic facilities and the tools for communicating ideas is less established, the impact of AIDS is awesome," said Eunice Muringo Kiereini, a World Health Organization member from Nairobi, Kenya, in a speech to delegates
Meanwhile, this week's issue of the Bay Area Reporter, a local gay-run newspaper, carried 16 obituaries of local AIDS victims.
About the only thing everyone here--scientists, delegates and conference officials--seems to agree on is they do not like the federal policy requiring HIV-infected travelers to apply for a special 10-day visa to enter the United States.
This is not lost on Gene McNary, the commissioner of the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service, who decided to forgo his visit to the agency's offices in San Francisco this week because of protests there by gays who oppose the U.S. restriction on travel by HIV-infected foreigners.
"Rather than go there, I decided I should defer and go back there another time," McNary said Thursday in Los Angeles.
McNary is the midst of his first West Coast swing to inspect INS offices and facilities since he assumed his job last October.
Times staff writer George Ramos in Los Angeles contributed to this report.