Today is the International AIDS Candlelight Memorial 2015

Posted by Pozziepinoy on 8:06 AM

May 17, 2015 is the International AIDS Candlelight Memorial 2015 (IACM). Today, the entire world will be commemorating it to show solidarity not only to remember those who have passed away because of AIDS but to use the event as a platform to raise awareness, to raise concerns about the situation of HIV and AIDS in each country and to encourage everyone to support all the HIV and AIDS programs.

The Philippines: Our Situation

The Philippines unlike the rest of the world, still belongs to a handful of countries where HIV cases are still on the rise. In the last HIV and AIDS Registry of the Department of Health - National Epidemiology Center (DOH-NEC), a record breaking 667 new HIV cases were reported. This means that 22 new HIV cases are being diagnosed every day. For 30 years, since 1984, there were 1,167 Filipinos who died of AIDS.

However, the numbers are still very small, compared to the other killer diseases like tuberculosis and malaria, thus most agencies turn a blind eye. Most don't think that HIV here is still not a public concern.

HIV in the Philippines is hard to diagnose in the Philippines. The reasons are myriad. 

One, stigma and discrimination are so strong in a predominantly Catholic country like the Philippines. Religion was a strong barrier during the talks about the Reproductive Health Law thus it  took years for it to pass although there was a great need for it. Condom use is not promoted publicly, in media and advertisements. Even the Department of Health (DOH) was attacked viciously by different organizations when it campaigned for the use of condom. Sex, condom use and HIV and AIDS are briefly discussed in schools. HIV testing and HIV Treatment are also hounded by stigma and discrimination. Because of the publicized increase of HIV cases among the males having sex with males (MSM) population, which comprise around 86% of the total HIV cases every month, it poses a barrier for individuals to go to the clinics and get tested for fear of sexual typecasting and promiscuity. Although enacted for implementation by the Department of Labor and Employment in the 90's, only a few companies have HIV in the Workplace Policy, the reason for which is that most companies don't want to discuss the topic of HIV and AIDS in their companies and don't want to include the HIV Test and AIDS Treatment to be covered by their insurance.

Second, there are only a few DOH accredited testing centers in the country. For a 100 million population, the Philippines only has a little more than 100 DOH accredited testing facilities all over the Phiilippines. There are testing centers that offer free testing, however for private clinics, the cost for an HIV test would range from Php500 to Php1,500 ($11 to $35). Also in all there regions of the Philippines, HIV treatment is only provided in 19 HIV and AIDS Treatment hubs, thus people are scared to get tested for fear that there is not enough facilities to help them.

Third, for the longest time, the Department of Health has been pushing for the Department of Education to include HIV and AIDS in the curriculum in grade school and high school for education and awareness. For a country with a literacy rate of 97.5%, meaning almost all go to primary school, it is very important that HIV and AIDS be discussed, especially the HIV test to these school goers. The cases are no on an alarming rate among the 15-24 year old range and yet, the Philippine government is not being aggressive it its move to promote HIV testing, awareness and prevention in its educational system.

The National HIV Testing Week 2015

Last February 2015, Secretary of Health Janette Garin approved the 1st National HIV Testing Week (NHTW) which ran from May 11 to May 15 nationwide which will culminate in the International AIDS Candlelight Memorial on May 17, 2015. It is a bold move to promote HIV testing nationwide. 

The Project Red Ribbon Care Management Foundation, Inc. (TRR), as the communications arm of the DOH in partnership with the National AIDS/STI Prevention and Control Program launched the program in a DOH press release last May 6, 2015 in the DOH Press Center. TRR also launched its poster and social media campaign, "HIV is EVERYBODY'S Concern" to engage the public in the campaign to promote HIv testing, education and awareness. In May 8, the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine - AIDS Research Group (RITM-ARG) launched its TV advertisement in two major TV companies.

The Quezon City Health Office on May 11, 2015 launched the NHTW with a motorcade of partners and the local government units (LGU) around the Quezon Memorial Circle which culminated in one big event at the Liwasang Aurora. 

TRR and RITM-ARG representing the DOH had a Press Conference in Iloilo Social Hygiene Clinic in May 12, 2015. Cagayan de Oro, Cebu, Davao, had their own press conferences all through the week. During the week, organizations like The Love Yourself (TLY), RITM and Pinoy Plus came on live TV and Radio to talk about the NHTW.

International AIDS Candlelight Memorial (IACM) 2015

The National HIV Testing Week as signed by the Health Secretary culminates to the International AIDS Candlelight Memorial 2015 which will be held today, May 17, 2015. 

TRR in partnership with the Department of Health with major sponsors, the American Foundation for AIDS Research (AmFar), Treat Asia, Metro Society Magazine, the QC Government and the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine will be holding the IACM 2015 Philippines today at the Liwasang Aurora, Quezon Memorial Circle from 2pm to 9pm. Highlights of the event include the Solidarity March, the Candlelight Memorial Ceremonies, the Commitment Ceremonies and the Solidarity Concert. Guest list includes the heads of programs of the Department of Health, Quezon City Mayor Herbert Bautista leading the Candlelight Memorial, representative of the U.S. Embassy, leaders of different organizations, TV and movie personalities who will be giving messages about HIV and AIDS and performances.

IACM and the International Day Against Homphobia, Transphobia and Biphobia (IDAHOT) 2015 Philippines

TRR for the very first time will be holding the IDAHOT 2015 Philippines, another international event  as part of the initial program of the IACM. Aligning with the issues surrounding stigma and discrimination, TRR combines the HIV and AIDS Organizations, the LGBTI groups and the general public in one big event to raise awareness and educate the public about the issues of the country about stigma and discrimination, leading to violence and the spread of HIV and AIDS deaths.

For the big event, the Metropolitan Community Church (MCC) will hold an ecumenical service, followed by IDAHOT messages from various leaders of participating organizations. Flags, banners and the rainbow flag symbolizing LGBTI will be waved and marched during the Solidarity March. All participating LGBTI groups will be recognized with the logos viewed on the LED screen on stage. The U.S. Embassy Representative will also give a message of support to the LGBTI programs of the Philippines. There will be performances on stage by the different LGBT organizations. The Solidarity March lead by a marching band and the TRR and Philippine Flag will combine all HIV and AIDS Groups, the LGBTI and participating groups, companies and schools.

The IDAHOT 2015 Philippines part of the IACM is organized by the TRR partner, Task Force Pride.

Deliver Your Message!

The IACM and IDAHOT 2015 Philippines is the venue to voice out your concerns and to share a message nationwide and worldwide.

1. COMMITMENT BANNER

Sign the NHTW-IACM-IDAHOT Commitment Banner near the Registration Booth to show commitment to the HIV and AIDS Programs and LGBTI Human Rights programs. This Commitment Banner will be marched every World AIDS Day, NHTW, IACM and IADAHOT every year to remind everybody of their commitment.

2. PLACARDS

Bring your placards and signs of messages for all the world to see. There will be media in the event and the TRR documenters and photographers will also have real time photos and videos of the event which will be put online in different social media platforms. The Audience is encouraged to take pictures with the fansigns, banners and flags with the hashtag: #trrIACMph and #trrIDAHOTph

3. PHOTOBOOTH

The event has an official photobooth wherein participants can not only pose for a photo but also hold a fansign to deliver their messages. The photos in the booth will be sent online for everyone to tag themseves and their friends for all the world to see.

4. ATTEND

Come and be counted. By attending and participating, all our voices will be heard. Come in colorful outfits, umbrellas, balloons, candles, ribbons, fans to show solidarity. Make sure to bring towels, extra shirt, water bottles and snacks as the event is long.

5. TALK ON STAGE

If you have a message to deliver, coordinate with the event organizers. The event is for everyone but we have to consider that the programme is full packed.

6. LIGHT A CANDLE

Show solidarity as we all light a candle for all the victims of stigma and discrimination and all those who died because of AIDS. Feel the emotion to strengthen our passion for the advocacy, for all our programs.

7. SHOW SUPPORT

For those who can't attend pls deliver a message online with the hashtag: #trrIACMph and #trrIDAHOTph