Sunday, May 17, 2009

Mere Rain Cannot Extinguish the Flame of Candlelight Memorial in Haiti

The opening ceremony of the 2009 International AIDS Candlelight Memorial on May 16 in front of the spectacular ruins of Sans Souci Palace in Milot, Haiti was rained out but was still a great success when it was moved to nearby Cap Haitïen, to a dinner following the event that had already been scheduled.

The festivities started when Haitian Prime Minister Michele Duvivier Pierre-Louis arrived at Cap Haitïen Airport in the afternoon and drove to Milot, about 12 kilometers away. She appeared before an enthusiastic crowd of local people at an event promoting the importance of getting tested for HIV. The rains started just before the opening ceremony and, when the rains had continued for over an hour, the program was moved to the dinner in Cap Haitien.

Abbott Fund, one of the donors of the Candlelight Memorial, announced that it was donating 500,000 rapid HIV test kits as the kick-off of a nationwide HIV testing campaign. The testing initiative is a cooperative partnership between the Haitian government, the U.S. government, the Abbott Fund and Haitian health implementing organizations.

The candle-lighting ceremony took place after the dinner, when Prime Minister Pierre-Louis and representatives of the two sponsors of the event — Vice President Kathryn Guare of the Global Health Council and Dr. Myrna Eustache of Promoteurs Objectif Zero Sida (POZ) — joined people living with HIV and AIDS to light the candles to remember those lost to AIDS, to advocate for improved programs and policies and to celebrate the courage of Haitians living with the disease.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Global Health Council and POZ Prepare for AIDS Candlelight Memorial Event

Five members of the Global Health Council are on the ground in northern Haiti preparing furiously for tonight’s grand opening ceremony of the 2009 International AIDS Candlelight Memorial in Milot in front of the Sans Souci Palace, a World Heritage site and the former home of King Henri Christophe between 1804 and 1820.

The Council’s main partner in organizing the event is POZ, Promoteurs Objectif Zéro Sida, a leading Haitian non-governmental organization that provides prevention and counseling services around the country. But many other governmental and non-governmental organizations are also very involved in bringing needed attention to HIV/AIDS and Haiti’s success in dealing with it.

The Council chose Haiti as the site of the opening ceremony of the world’s oldest and premier AIDS awareness raising event principally because of Haiti’s recent progress against HIV/AIDS, particularly in urban areas, and because of POZ’s outstanding record as a country coordinator of the annual event in Haiti over the last 10 years.

The activities begin this afternoon with a march that will include thousands of Haitians and culminate in a symbolic lighting of the candle this evening with a spectacularly lit Sans Souci Palace as the backdrop. Many other activities are being held today leading up to the opening ceremony including HIV counseling and testing, which also serves as the kick-off for a national testing campaign aiming to increase significantly the number of Haitians who know their HIV status.

Friday, May 15, 2009

The 2009 International AIDS Candlelight Memorial

The 2009 International AIDS Candlelight Memorial drew thousands of people to more than 1,000 memorials in 100 countries. The Global Health Council, along with the Promoteurs Objectif Zero Sida, hosted the 26th annual International AIDS Candlelight Memorial Opening Ceremony in Cap Haitian, Haiti on May 16, 2009. The Candlelight Memorial began in 1983 in San Francisco and has since spread throughout the world.

Bound by the theme of “Together, We Are The Solution,” the Candlelight Memorial reinforces our dedication to the cause of HIV/AIDS prevention and education. The Opening Ceremony highlighted Haiti's progress despite its challenges, and promoted the critical partnership between government and civil society worldwide. The event will began with a march through the town of Milot, just outside of Cap Haitian, and ended with the ceremony and lighting of the official candle.

Kathryn Guare, vice president of member resources, and David Olson, policy communications director at the Global Health Council, share their experiences of the events leading up to the opening ceremony and the event itself.

Saturday, May 16: Preparing for Candlelight
Sunday, May 17: The Candlelight Memorial