At 10.30 a.m. on Sunday, with temperature soaring, a group of people stood in silence for a few minutes holding lit candles.

The 70-odd members of the group at Sri Krishna College of Arts and Science did not do so as a crusade against global warming, but to remember those who lost their lives to HIV/ AIDS. It was also to show support for those who were living with the disease.

The candlelight vigil marked the International AIDS Candlelight Memorial, commemorated every year on the third Sunday of May to pay homage to those who died of HIV / AIDS.

Theme

The theme for this year was “Many Lights for Human Rights”. Students, staff, public interested in showing solidarity for the cause, and people living with HIV / AIDS lighted candles and observed silence for five minutes.

It was organised in collaboration with The Centre for Advocacy and Research (CFAR), a non-profit organisation committed to working for the rights of urban and rural poor, HIV positive people, single women, people with disabilities, and sexual minorities, and also other networks of people living with HIV.

Those who participated were there not only to remember those who had lost their lives, but also to stress that more lives should not be lost to the virus.

Message

R. Meenakshi, president of “Coimbatore District HIV Ullor Nala Sangam”, had been living with HIV for the past 13 years.

“We want to commemorate this day to carry the message that people living with HIV/ AIDS too can live a long life if they received proper treatment, followed the right precautions, and adopted the right lifestyle,” she said.

K. Mahadevan, Reader, Department of Sexually Transmitted Diseases, Coimbatore Medical College Hospital, said it was important to address the fear of health care workers so that they came forward to treat people living with HIV/ AIDS without any hesitation.

B. Mohamed Ali, District Programme Manager, District AIDS Prevention and Control Unit, spoke on the Prevention of Parent to Child Transmission (PPTCT) programme introduced in all Government hospitals and health centres.

He also said the Anti-Retro Viral Therapy (ART) centres had been set up in Valparai, Karamadai, and Pollachi, in addition to Coimbatore, for promoting easier access to ART drugs and help those on ART for better adherence to treatment.

Students K. Thaarika, M. Sri Chandru Krishnan, and I. Safoora, said that the event provided an opportunity to get more information on HIV/ AIDS. “

After listening to the speakers we have realised that it is necessary to create awareness among our friends and family.

They should understand that anybody can get infected. Motivating youth to go in for voluntary testing, and creating awareness among the public that the stigma attached to people living with HIV/ AIDS should be done away with, will be the messages we will carry from here,” they said.

Highlight

The highlight of the memorial vigil was the pledge the participants took. It was a call for a collaborative effort to put an end to the stigma and discrimination associated with HIV and AIDS.

Participants were also given brief details about the HIV/ AIDS Bill 2005. The need for a law was stressed because the “HIV / AIDS epidemic cannot be looked at solely from the perspective of medical science, but required approaches that are holistic including social, cultural, and economic”.

M. Somesh, President, Coimbatore Network of Positive People, V. Victor, lawyer, and K. Sundararaman, Principal of the college, addressed the participants.

Keywords: Social outlook

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