On Sunday the 17th of May, the AIDS Action Council of the ACT held its annual ‘International AIDS Candlelight Memorial’ at University House to commemorate those who have passed away as a result of AIDS. The event hoped to raise awareness about HIV prevention and ending transmission. This memorial was part of 1,200 local community events held simultaneously in 115 different countries, which first emerged in the Castro District in San Francisco in 1983.
The theme for the year’s event was ‘Supporting the Future’. Philippa Moss, Executive Director of the AIDS Action Council of the ACT, explained that this means ensuring “political and social leaders… [are] fully aware of their own …agendas, around ensuring that the sector is appropriately resourced and so that people are aware that we can end HIV.” Moss’ message has been echoed by Suzette Moses-Burton, Executive Director of Global Network of People Living with HIV, who emphasized the need to “demand a sustainable AIDS response — one that funds health care, promotes human rights for all, and engages us fully and meaningfully.”
The event received strong support from the local community, media organisations and politicians alike. Chief Minister Andrew Barr continued his on-going support, speaking at the event for the second time. The event also featured a performance by the Gay & Lesbian Qwire.
Moss conceded that the turnout of 200 people was slightly below average, but praised it as a “very powerful event.” Moss pointed to the words of speaker Abby Landy, who had to visit her GP four times whilst becoming incredibly sick before finally being tested for HIV/AIDS. Landy said this delay was mostly because “a white, heterosexual, young, middle class woman did not fit the stereotype.”
First year student, Emma Henke, who attended the event, said, “it made me realise that AIDS doesn’t just affect third world countries. Work needs to be done in Australia as well.”
This year the International AIDS Candlelight Memorial also coincided with IDAHOT, the International Day against Homophobia and Transphobia. As Moss explains, the significance of this is to draw attention to the “stigma and discrimination against people living with HIV,” which can perpetuate homophobia, transphobia and biphobia.
Ultimately, the AIDS Action Council of the ACT hopes to see the number of people living with HIV in Australia reduce from 26,000 as it currently stands, to zero.
Image courtesy of AIDS Alliance India