POZ Exclusives : Protesters Against Hershey Company Hit Times Square Store - by Cristina Gonzalez and Reed Vreeland

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March 14, 2012

Protesters Against Hershey Company Hit Times Square Store

by Cristina Gonzalez and Reed Vreeland

A growing group of activists are holding the Hershey Company and its affiliated school accountable for condoning HIV-related discrimination.



More than 20 demonstrators rallied March 8 outside the Hershey Company’s flagship store on Times Square to protest the candy maker for not opposing the Milton Hershey School’s decision to reject a 13-year-old student because of his HIV-positive status. A number of young activists expressed outrage and deep concern about the HIV discrimination case, and they joined forces with organizers from the AIDS Healthcare Foundation, the Hispanic AIDS Forum, and Gay Men of African Descent to call for a boycott of Hershey Company products.

The case of HIV-related discrimination received national attention last year when the Philadelphia-based AIDS Law Project of Pennsylvania filed a lawsuit on November 30, 2011, against the Milton Hershey School, a private boarding school for low-income students, for rejecting an HIV-positive honors student even though he met the school’s requirements. At the time, school officials commented that the student was not admitted into the school because he could pose a health threat to other boarders.

Months later, the Milton Hershey School has stood by its decision to bar the young man from entry, citing the teen’s HIV-positive status as a main factor behind the decision. No public apology has been issued. Despite the school’s inaction, a growing group of activists have not let the issue rest and are now holding the Hershey Company accountable for the discrimination case at its affiliated school. Although the school operates independently, it is bankrolled and managed by The Hershey Trust Company, the chocolate company’s largest single shareholder and beneficiary. Critics also point out that there is overlap between both organizations’ board members.

A handful of young demonstrators said that they stood in solidarity with the young man and sympathized with what he must be going through, realizing that they too could be vulnerable to similar forms of discrimination. Most of them had not yet been born in 1985 when Ryan White fought a very public battle against HIV-related discrimination so he could attend his local Indiana public school. These early victories against HIV-related discrimination added to the group’s message that stigmatization can be overcome with better education about HIV.

At the protest, no one had direct contact with the now 14-year-old student who was turned away from Milton Hershey School, though they said they’d like to hear from him regarding his disappointment and his new hopes. POZ wrote the young man with a series of questions. Below are his responses:

Why did you want to be a part of the Milton Hershey School?
 
I wanted to attend Milton Hershey after I visited the school in 2009. As we were going around the campus and listening to our tour guide, I couldn’t believe all the opportunities available. I was only in the sixth grade at the time, but I was very impressed. Since I want to go to college, I knew I could get into any of the colleges that those employed at Milton Hershey attended—as long as I had the grades.
 
How did you feel when you weren’t admitted?
 
I was upset. My mother seemed more upset than I was on the surface. I internalized my anger and still am. I used to look at Hershey as if I was already one of them. I just knew I would get in because I take pride in everything I do and I keep good grades. I have nothing wrong with me, and everyone that I know, who knows me, likes me.   

What would you like to happen now?
 
I would really like for this school to learn a lesson, a big lesson. But it doesn’t really seem as though anything is going to happen to them for what they did.

I know other kids who are HIV positive, and when they tell who they think are his/her so-called friends, what ends up happening is they get teased or ostracized by their peers out of ignorance. I didn’t think I would have to go through that there, with the house parents or medical staff at Hershey. My mother even went as far as to find a specialist in Hershey who would be able to care for me while I was in their care. I am at a point that I try to block this out—but it’s kind of hard.  

Me attending Hershey, I don’t see that in my future. Not because I don’t want to go, but because they are going to do everything possible for me not to attend. I have four years of school left before college, and I will do my best wherever I attend. I just want to make sure my education is a good one.
 
What do you want people to know about HIV?
     
What people need to know about HIV is that education is the key to all knowledge. The more you know, the less afraid you will be. The better you will be able to protect yourself and future generations.

Go to EndHIVStigma.org to learn more about the boycott.

Search: Milton Hershey School, Hershey, kisses, Hershey Company, discrimination, stigmatization, school, boarding school, student, students, young people, AIDS Healthcare Foundation, protest, demonstration, Hispanic AIDS Forum, Gay Men of African Descent, Hershey Trust Company, AIDS Law Project in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania,


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  comments 1 - 15 (of 16 total)     next > >>

Chris, PHILADELPHIA, 2012-06-12 17:50:41
Wow a whopping 20 people protested. Hersey should shut the school down and all the great education they gave for free to under-privileged kids.

bandwagon jumpers, palmyra, 2012-04-30 20:40:49
I think you all need to get a life and stop jumping on the bandwagon about the whole Hershey name. Just cause you all think you can get money from a company. There are plenty of other schools out there and just because Hershey has been in the spot light lately, it makes them an easy payday for you. Get a life and look around

Brian, Beantown, 2012-04-06 15:26:25
My pack of cub scouts visited the Hershey factory and hershey park as part of our trip to Gettysburg and it was chosen to tour since MR. Hershey was viewed as such a great American with what he had done for children and the boys in orphanages--but this is exactly NOT what I would expect the Hershey family or trustees to want-are they absolutely uneducated boobs? Do they think that a boy who is known positive is going to infect another student? that is their BS claim. Hershey's equal STIGMA! Boy!

Brian, Beantown, 2012-04-06 15:21:47
Ryan White all over again! Private institution thinks they can decide who they can exclude isn't it violation of ADA? Sickening appalling,, Isn't Hershey schools the original Boys Town/orphanages? Hershey was the "benevolent founder" whose trust & co. sales pays this school! I will not buy any chocolate kisses, bars etc. until they apologize and reverse this unenlightened atrocity committed against the very kids they set up to protect, the most vulnerable. Stigma still exists but we must fight!

Marco Benjamin, New York, 2012-04-03 12:36:51
Protests demonstrations are still going strong......we have now become more global and HERSHEY must denounce this discrimination

Michael P, Philadelphia, PA, 2012-03-31 09:23:38
Boycotts work. It worked with Florida Orange Juice. It worked with Coors Beer, and it will work with Hersey Products. I won't buy any more of Hersey's Chocolates and encourage others to do so too. As for this fantastic young man, you are very brave, intelligent, and good hearted. Please don't let these fat cat corporate bullies turn you off. Please pursue your dreams of receiving an excellent education. Sending you love and support.

James, Wallington, NJ, 2012-03-30 14:37:29
I remember going to Hershey park when I was just a little boy. If i would have known this would have happened, I wouldn't have went. They think this kid is going to have sex with everyone? Lol, guess that means they think he's hot! Would they be surprised to know that being HIV positive does not prevent someone from having a healthy sex life? These people need to grow up, enough is enough. And he's right, knowledge is power

tynee, baton rouge, 2012-03-27 19:58:34
i am also positive and i will not be supporting hershsey's as long as they continue to discriminate. that is not cool at all.

MANUEL, SAN FRANCISCO, 2012-03-23 13:57:17
HOW DARE THEY, THIS IS NOT CORPORATE COMMUNITY RESPONSIBILITY, LETS STOP HERSHEY PURCHASES UNTIL THIS IS RESOLVED!!!!!!!!

emmanuel barner, charlotte, 2012-03-23 11:45:36
Young brother I think being rejected by that school was the best thing that could have happen for you. You don't need that school to become somebody because you are SOMEONE SPECIAL . There are other school just as good or better. God bless you!! PS I been HIV Poz for 33 year And even more years for you

ed j philly, , 2012-03-22 09:31:02
What a crying shame that the Hershey Company does not realize that this young man could have an impact on finding a cure,through the education received at their iinstitution

Kendrick Davis, Saint Louis, 2012-03-20 00:59:43
I am so proud of this young man, and I am so ashamed and disappointing in the behavior of Hershey. No more of their products in my house. A special thanks is in order for all who reach out to this young man, and to those who are working to show what an injustice this is.

Michael Crow, ANDREWS TEXAS, 2012-03-20 00:52:16
I WILL NOT EAT ANY HERSHEY PRODUCTS UNTIL THEY CHANGE THERE STANCE ON THIS AND TELLALL MY FRIENDS i AM HIV+ MY SELF

Rafael, New York City, 2012-03-19 16:19:22
I love Hershey's chocolate. But after reading this article I will never buy one single chocolate from them, ever.

kathleen, houston, 2012-03-16 11:09:29
until the laws are changed in Congress,this is to be expected. I was descrimated anginst on my job and I worked for the government where I contracted the disease.

comments 1 - 15 (of 16 total)     next > >>


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