27 Mar 2017

The AIDS Candlelight Memorial Still Matters – Here’s Why

By Robin Irwin

In a world with advancing biomedical technology for preventing, testing and treating HIV, it is shocking that AIDS is still so prevalent in 2017. In the Netherlands, where I live, there are very few who die from AIDS as compared to the 1.1 million people who died of AIDS globally in 2015 and the more than 35 million people who have died of AIDS related illness since the beginning of the epidemic in 1981. But, it still happens.

 Recently, I heard about a 22 year old heterosexual man dying in hospital after a 3 week fight with AIDS. That really struck me hard. If a country like the Netherlands, with excellent, near-universal healthcare services cannot prevent a 22 year old from dying, then what does that say about our ability to stop AIDS related mortality in the rest of the world?

The 21st of May 2017 is International AIDS Candlelight Memorial Day. This event not only serves as a symbolic reminder of all our friends who have passed away, but also of the multifaceted social, emotional, physical, economical, and political struggles that all those living with HIV go through on a daily basis. Further, the Candlelight Memorial also demonstrates the continued need for the visibility, leadership and commitment of communities and individuals to take action and achieve a better future for people living with HIV. There is no better time to act than now.

We are living in a world where the investment in, and development of HIV-related support is diminishing and where more politicians are rolling back on demonstrative statements and commitments on HIV/AIDS.  Lack of funding, lack of political commitment and lack of action against political, structural, social and legal barriers in many countries– such as the need for greater access to medicines, stigma and discrimination against men who have sex with men and transgender people and the ongoing criminalization of sex work and drug use – impact on the health and wellness of people living with HIV and will lead to more AIDS related deaths.

 Join us on the 21st of May to reflect on and commit to re-engaging meaningfully with communities, donors and governments. Too many people living with HIV around the world are still stigmatized and lack basic resources to have a decent quality of life. These are everyday facts.

 We can change this and give voice to the voiceless. We all need to get involved and do our part to end this epidemic.   To learn more about the AIDS Candlelight Memorial and to get involved please visit www.candlelightmemorial.org/

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