The Department of Health (DOH) in collaboration with the Local Government of Quezon City will spearhead the observance of the 33rd International AIDS Candlelight Memorial (IACM) at the Liwasang Aurora, Quezon City Memorial Circle today, 14 May 2016. The IACM is an annual global event commemorating those who have died from HIV and AIDS. Everyone will light candles signifying hope for those left behind by people who died from HIV/AIDS and will unveil the AIDS Memorial Quilt, whose individual patches are rendered by loved ones, family, and friends of the victims of HIV and AIDS.
This year, the AIDS Candlelight Memorial features two new highlights. First, ‘AIDS Hour’, the first in the country and in the world will be launched on May 14, 2016. The public is encouraged to light a candle from 6:00 PM to 7:00 PM as an act of solidarity and participation in the IACM. Second, the IACM has been renamed the Philippine AIDS Candlelight Memorial (PACM) to encourage nationwide observance. This also signifies that the issue of halting the HIV epidemic is not limited to the health sector, but will require a united effort from many parts of society.
“The launch of the first ever AIDS Hour in the world is a concrete example of the Philippines doing our part in the global effort against HIV and AIDS. We need to raise awareness because many people living with HIV do not know what health services are available to them. Others are afraid to consult, or are socially stigmatized for being HIV-positive. We hope the AIDS Hour movement will spread not just in our country but globally.” said Health Secretary Janette P. Loreto-Garin.
“AIDS Hour will be observed annually as part of the PACM. Every year, a host city will be selected by DOH, to lead the awareness campaign about HIV. The host city will light or project a candle on a local landmark. Quezon City is the inaugural city for AIDS Hour. The Filipino community in New York, USA will also conduct AIDS Hour this month. As we join the rest of the world in this memorial, let us remember that every candle we light represent our struggle to overcome HIV and AIDS,” said Garin.
The health chief added that DOH is continuously offering free and confidential HIV testing in Social Hygiene Clinics run by local government units and in 22 HIV Treatment Hubs nationwide. In 2015, under the High Impact Breakthrough Strategies or Hi5, DOH aimed to reduce the number of new cases of HIV/AIDS by 40%, by emphasizing an increase in the number of those made aware of their HIV status through counseling, screening and testing. Laboratory confirmation of HIV seropositivity also allows patients to avail of the PhilHealth
Outpatient HIV/AIDS Treatment (OHAT) package.
“HIV is just a virus. We cannot allow it to destroy the lives of our fellow Filipinos. We can stop HIV transmission only through a collective societal effort, beginning with widespread awareness about HIV and the necessary preventive behaviors and measures.” Garin concluded.
In line with this, everyone is urged to upload on Facebook a photo of their AIDS Hour participation using the hashtag #AIDSHour2016. Prizes will be awarded by the Red Ribbon Project in June 2016 for the best photos. For queries on DOH testing centers and information on HIV and AIDS, dial these hotline numbers: (02) 651-7800 local 2550 or 09289086288 / 09771312046 / 09154273407.