Manila, May 14 (IANS) LGBT activists on Saturday gathered in Philippines’ Quezon city for a memorial to raise awareness of the HIV virus spreading in the country.
They gathered at the International AIDS Candlelight Memorial, aiming to challenge discrimination against people living with the virus and the widespread misconception among Filipinos that HIV/AIDS only affects the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community, Efe news reported.
Philippines Health Secretary Janette Garin urged people across the country to participate in the memorial and commemorate those who died from HIV/AIDS by lighting a candle during the country’s – and world’s – first “AIDS Hour” at 6 p.m., reported The Philippine Star newspaper.
The health department is co-organising the hour with the Project Red Ribbon Care Management Foundation.
All lights except one will be switched off at the Quezon Memorial Circle’s Liwasang Aurora during the hour so that it appears as a huge candle shining in the darkness, said foundation director Ico Rodulfo Johnson.
“By lighting a candle, we hope that people will be reminded every time they see a lighted candle that there is a community of people living with HIV and help contribute to take away the stigma and discrimination,” Garin said.
The Philippines has recorded a total of 32,647 HIV cases between 1984 and March 2016, with 1,675 patients dying of AIDS.
While the number of HIV cases has increased in recent years, Garin explained that this was due to more testing centres being established – but this meant more patients were provided with treatment, leading to a declining number of deaths due to AIDS.