International AIDS candlelight memorial rites held in Manila

Jeck Batallones, ABS-CBN News

Posted at May 22 2023 08:00 PM

MANILA - It was an emotional afternoon for those who attended the International AIDS Candlelight Memorial in a hotel in Manila, Monday afternoon. 

The event, which is traditionally held during the third week of May, aims to remember those who died of AIDS and express solidarity with People Living with HIV (PLHIVs).

The Philippine National AIDS Council (PNAC) spearheaded the event which also aims to inform and mobilize society and show support to PLHIV and their families.

This year’s theme "Spread Love and Solidarity, Not Stigma and Fear" is meant to emphasize the importance of all aspects of HIV affecting the lives of people.

Officials and representatives from the Department of Health, and member-agencies of the PNAC, civil society organizations and the PLHIV community attended the ceremony.

One of those who was present during the ceremony was “Nanay Cecil” whose son succumbed to the disease years ago. She said she actively participates in these PLHIV events to help spread awareness about the disease.

She was emotional during the candle lighting ceremony. “I’m proud to be a mom of a PLHIV. For me HIV is not a curse it is a blessing. Kung hindi nagkroon ng HIV ang anak ko di ko natulungang maisalba ang buhay ng iba pang katulad niya,” she said.

Aside from the candle-lighting ceremony there was a lotus ceremony wherein the names of those who died of AIDS were read.

DOH Undersecretary Dr. Eric Tayag said PLHIVs not only suffer from the disease but from stigma and discrimination.

“It is our duty that every individual affected by HIV receives the care and support and love that they deserve,” Tayag said.

Based on DOH data, the first HIV case in the Philippines was reported in 1984. Since then until March 2023, the total number of PLHIVs in the Philippines has reached 114,008, according to the HIV & AIDS & ART Registry of the Philippines. The number of deaths totaled 6,474.

Since 2008, the HIV transmissions has climbed steadily. From a daily average of 1 in 2008, it grew to 13 new cases a day in 2013, 31 new cases a day in 2018, 41 daily cases in 2022, and 54 average new cases in 2023.

The PNAC is seeking a bold, urgent whole-of-nation, whole-of-sectoral approach to provide equal access to HIV and AIDS-related services, eliminate stigma and discrimination, and remove conditions that aggravate the spread of HIV.