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.