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) www.pozsida.org/ — 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.