“YOU may be sitting next to an HIV positive person,” vice mayor Carlo Fortuna warned in his inspirational message during last Thursday’s commemoration of 25th International Aids Candlelight Memorial as crowds began to look at each other.
“Low and Slow,” as how City Health officer Oscar Quirante described Aids five years ago. But lately he described the outbreak as “Hidden and Growing.”
He however calmed the roused crowed of NGO volunteers, peer educators and reformed commercial sex workers by saying, “Luckily there is no reported HIV positive case here in Mandaue city.”
Worldwide, he said, there are 40 million HIV positive patients and 3,061 of that figure are in the country, where 72 patients are here in Cebu. The worldwide count started in 1983 when Aids was first discovered and the figures were taken up to December 2007.
Last Thursday the activity started with a march from City Hall to the City Health Office, a 200-meter distance, with placard-bearing women from barangays Subangdaku, Looc, Guizo, Mantuyong, Opao, Paknaan, Centro and Ibabao.
The marchers were accompanied by NGO volunteers and commercial sex workers turned peer educators, waving placards that read, ”Expand access to HIV Treatment”. The march ended at the city health office where a short program was held.
True to what the vice mayor said, one from the crowd named Gabby, an HIV positive person, stood up towards the end of the activity and shared his struggle.
Tomorrow (May 18) 119 countries all over the world and Cebu will light candles to commemorate International Aids Candlelight Memorial. Mandaue city lighted their candles in advance last Thursday because of pressing schedule.
Mandaue City Health Officer Dr. Debra Catulong said the commemoration started in 1983 in San Francisco, USA, where a group of men made walkathon and candlelight vigil to remember their friends and love ones who died of Aids.
The highlight of the commemoration was the signing of the Statement of Commitment.
These include: commitment to fight discrimination of STD and HIV positive patients; commitment to ensure equal access to treatment, prevention, care and support; commitment to listen to the voice of affected communities; commitment to heartfelt dedication and service and commitment to fulfill their commitment.
Signatories are mayor Jonas Cortes, Dr. Oscar Quirante, city councilor Jefferson Ceniza; Maria Estella Gaban of Terre Des Hommes-Netherlands; Nelly Majadillas of Bidlisiw Foundation; Ana Maria Rellin-Ngolaban of Forge; and Lourdes Jereza of University of Southern Philippines (USP).
Towards the end of the activity the crowd was ushered inside a conference room and was warned not to take pictures.
Then an all-black Gabby stood in front of them and shared his experience as an HIV positive person. (OCP)