“Let their deaths bear fruits in our collective fight against stigma, discrimination and inequalities.”
Theme: End AIDS: Zero Discrimination in churches and communities, End Inequalities
Today marks the 38th year of our annual commemoration for our friends, relatives and loved ones who died from AIDS related illnesses. The International AIDS Candlelight Memorial is much more than just a memorial – it serves as a community mobilization campaign to raise social consciousness about HIV and AIDS. This commemoration serves as an important intervention for global solidarity to break down barriers of stigma and discrimination, and to give hope to new generations. This day of remembering is also an opportunity to honor those who dedicate their lives in creating a safe and loving community with and for people living with HIV.
As the world deals with the Covid-19 pandemic, the situations and vulnerabilities faced by People living with HIV (PLHIVs) in the Philippines have worsened. The nationwide community quarantine and lockdown have made it hard for PLHIVs to access treatment and healthcare. This has greatly affected the service delivery of anti-retro viral (ARV) refill to PLHIVs across the different regions in the country. There are some who cannot see their doctors and do their annual check-ups, laboratory tests and other medical procedures either because of fear to go outside and catch the virus. Some have also limited or no means of transportation. Worse, many are losing or have lost their jobs and livelihood which make their situation even more difficult.
The latest report of the HIV and ART registry of the Philippines (February 2021) mentioned that there were eighty-three (83) reported deaths among PLHIVs. The highest number of deaths is in the age group 25-34 years old or young adults. Most of them are just starting in their career, but because of the many barriers to access healthcare services, because of stigma, discrimination and inequalities, we have lost them at a very young age, along with their hopes and dreams. They did not die because of AIDS but because of the opportunistic infections that comes with low immune system; because of the stigma and discrimination that comes along with their condition; and, because of the structural inequalities that is very present in our society – poverty, hunger, very poor healthcare system, inaccessibility to treatment, poor educational system, among others.
The first IACM was held on 1983 in a small vigil behind a banner reading “Fighting For Our Lives”. Today, we carry on fighting structural inequalities that continue to kill our loved ones, family and friends. And so, we must stand together for and with each other to extend possible and available resources that we have. We call on our member churches and their communities to:
- provide support and safe spaces to people living with HIV who are experiencing discrimination and violence;
- donate to shelters that take care PLHIVs;
- conduct awareness-raising sessions on HIV;
- join campaigns that protect marginalized people like PLHIVs; and,
- examine policies and or rules and regulations that perpetuates inequalities and join the work to eliminate them.
Jesus said, “Very truly, I tell you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains just a single grain; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.” (John 12:24). Let these deaths spur us to action and solidarity until justice and righteousness bear fruit in our land.
16 May 2021
REV. FELIPE B. EHICAN, JR.
RT. REV. JOEL O. PORLARES
DRA. GAY B. MANODON
MS. CATHERINE KAY F. ALMARIO
MAJOR ALLAIN M. NIETES
BISHOP REUEL NORMAN O. MARIGZA
 Of these, 8 (10%) cases were 15-24 years old at the time of death, 45 (54%) were 25-34 years old, 26 (31%) were 35-49 years old and 4 (5%) were 50 years old and older.