On Sunday May 24, 2015, the Society Against Sexual Orientation Discrimination (SASOD) supported the initiative of the the Global Network of People Living with HIV (GN+) and hosted the 6th International AIDS Candlelight Memorial in Guyana on the steps of the St. George’s Cathedral.
|Chelauna Providence, Organiser of the event and Social Change Coordinator, SASOD and John Quelch, chairperson of the event and Project Coordinator, SASOD addressing the audience.|
The theme for this year’s 32nd annual observance, ‘Supporting the Future,’ challenges people from various communities around the world to unite and demand a sustainable AIDS response - one that is fully inclusive. The event reinforced the need for access to treatment, care and support, as many persons living with HIV (PLHIV) are still facing discrimination and criminalization in various contexts.
The International AIDS Candlelight Memorial is not just a memorial, but an opportunity for communities to mobilize and raise awareness about HIV and AIDS. It is about fostering global solidarity, and breaking down the barriers of stigma and discrimination, and restoring hope for the future.
Delivering the feature address was Ms. Folami Harris, Chief of Party of the USAID Advancing Partners and Communities (APC) Project. In her address she challenged those present to apply a simple ABC model as they support the future. She spoke to Acceptance of those living with HIV, calling for a sense of Belongingness within our respective communities and groups, and being a part of the Collective response to HIV.
|Ms. Folami Harris, Chief of Party of the USAID Advancing Partners and Communities (APC) Project delivering the feature address|
The Candlelight Memorial brought together a sizeable group of young people, health professionals, civil society representatives and members of the public to show camaraderie and support for persons infected and affected by HIV; to encourage people to continue to act together, and to call on the public to end stigma and discrimination against people living with HIV, and key affected populations.
Performances from local artistes including Jackie Hanover, Randolph Critchlow, EUPHORIA Dance Group, A-TayJah, Nurriyyih Gerrard, Lloyda Nicholas and Gavin Mendonca sent positive and progressive messages while entertaining an affianced crowd as they chimed in on cue by a few of the performers. Those present were then invited to share words of tribute and participate in the lighting of candles in memory of those we’ve lost to the disease.
|Lloyda Nicholas performing a spoken word piece at the event.|
The International AIDS Candlelight Memorial is committed to ending HIV by raising awareness and advocating for the advancement of effective policies at all levels. Much has been done to improve and advance the HIV response in Guyana; however much more is still needed. SASOD is calling for equal access to treatment, prevention and care services for all Guyanese regardless of sexual orientation and gender identity. Stigma and discrimination - especially homophobia and transphobia – are barriers to accessing services for the communities we serve. There is an urgent need to end stigma, discrimination and human rights violations, affecting people living with HIV and key populations such as men who have sex with men, people who use drugs, sex workers and young people.
|Attendees lighting candles at SASOD's 6th International AIDS Candlelight Memorial|
Coordinated by GN+, the International AIDS Candlelight Memorial, which is in its 32nd year, is the world’s oldest and largest grassroots mobilization campaigns for HIV awareness annually.