June 17, 2024

The city government of Baguio together with partner civic organizations and government agencies will be observing the International AIDS Candlelight Memorial on May 10 at 5 p.m. through a float with lighted candles over Burnham Lake.

This was agreed by members of the AIDS Watch Council (AWAC) during their meeting on April 4 at the City Health Services Office led by Acting City Health Officer Dr. Celia Flor Brillantes.

Every May since 1983, the AIDS Candlelight Memorial is conducted internationally to honor all those who have been affected by the AIDS pandemic.

“The candlelight memorial campaign involves all sectors of the local community including non-government organizations, government agencies, faith-based groups and community members in the fight against HIV and AIDS,” said Brillantes.

In the city, there were 21 HIV/AIDS cases in 2019; 14 cases in 2020; 31 in 2021; 56 in 2022; and 19 cases during the first quarter of 2023.

“Our campaign is to seek undetected persons living with HIV through screening and undergo continued treatment if the test turns positive of the disease,” Brillantes said.

She said from the beginning of the movement, the memorials have served as a forum to honor the memory of those lost to AIDS due to late detection or discontinued treatment.

She added the memorials are meant to show support for those living with HIV/AIDS; raise awareness of the disease; and mobilize individuals around a common goal of responding to the impacts of HIV/AIDS.

“We create a powerful force against HIV/AIDS-related discrimination by having compassion prevail over judgment and understanding triumphs over stigma,” she said.

Brillantes said efforts are extended to persuade the key and vulnerable population to be tested, properly diagnosed and enrolled in antiretroviral treatment (ART) at a rate of 95 percent, so as to render the virus non-transmissible.

AIDS is a chronic, potentially life-threatening condition caused by HIV damaging the immune system’s ability to fight infection and diseases.  HIV is a sexually transmitted infection and can also be spread by contact with infected blood or from mother to child during pregnancy, childbirth or breast-feeding.

The DOH declared HIV as a national emergency in 2017. – Jessa Mardy P. Samidan