The Department of Health (DOH) and Network Plus, the umbrella organization of more than 50 People Living with Human Immunodeficiency Virus (PLHIV), spearheaded this year’s commemoration of the Philippine International AIDS Candlelight Memorial last May 20.
Anchoring on the theme, “Keeping the Light, Honoring our Rights, Radiating Pride”, this served as a platform for unity of various groups to raise awareness on the different HIV programs of the government and civil society organizations geared towards the commitment to the advocacy of eliminating HIV and AIDS-related stigma and discrimination.
The event was open to the public with the participation of LGBTQ+ and HIV communities, DOH Metro Manila Center for Health Development, Quezon City Health Office, Philippine National AIDS Council, Department of Social Welfare and Development, Global Fund – PSF PROTECTS, United States Agency for International Development (USAID) Epic Program, TLF Share, the DOH said in a statement.
Highlights of the event were the lotus ceremony, the unveiling of the ceremonial ribbon, and the AIDS Hour–set from 6 p.m. to 7 p.m. , coinciding with the observance of the International AIDS Candlelight Memorial (IACM) 2022 to commemorate those who have died of AIDS. Booths were also deployed to provide free HIV testing, promotion of HIV services, and signing of the commitment banner. The IACM parade started from Quezon City Hall to Liwasang Aurora.
In March 2022, a total of 1,539 confirmed HIV-positive individuals were reported to the HIV/AIDS & Anti-retroviral Therapy (ART) Registry of the Philippines (HARP). There were 97,792 HIV cases recorded from January 1984 to March 2022, with 5,548 deaths. Of the total 1,054 cases in March 2022, there were 66 reported deaths.
“The International AIDS Candlelight Memorial gives importance to our PLHIVs. Commemorating the challenges faced by the community will further highlight the salience of HIV/AIDS, bridging the need to provide holistic healthcare in a wide-ranging scale. The IACM is celebrated at a high time in a world where acceptance is present, and stigmas are broken. As we move forward to a brighter future, everybody–including our PLHIVs – will not get left behind,” Health Secretary Francisco Duque III said.