AIDS Candlelight Memorial Celebrates the Lives of those Infected and Affected
The UKZN’s HIV and AIDS Programme held an International AIDS Candlelight Memorial in remembrance of departed loved ones and to honour families, caregivers and peer educators for their roles in fighting the epidemic.
Under the theme “Ending AIDS Together”, the event began with a march on campus to create awareness and to inform staff and students at UKZN about the purpose of the memorial. This annual activity is a community mobilisation campaign to raise social consciousness about HIV and AIDS. It also serves as an ‘intervention for global solidarity, breaking down barriers of stigma and discrimination, and giving hope to the new generation’.
Before lighting a candle, the Rev M Ndlangamandla urged the audience to observe a moment of silence, reminding them of the recent violent acts on women at the hands of their partners. He stated, ‘as I light this candle, let me say the lives of other people are in your hands. Let us take this moment to remember those who are living with HIV.’
Giving a sermon about the word of God, Rev KO Mbalo asked the gathering: ‘What is your purpose in life?’ He reminded the audience that death was an appointment that no-one could ever avoid.
Rev Mbalo conveyed that it was important to treat HIV and AIDS as any other chronic disease. Pastor Kwazi Ndlovu who is a Peer Educator at UKZN delivered a motivational talk and the vote of thanks to all who participated and attended the event.
According to the HIV and AIDS Programme, the memorial aims to unite communities around a common cause and provide an opportunity to mourn together. Furthermore, it was to celebrate the lives of those living with HIV and AIDS.
The memorial event was directed towards:
• Reducing the multifaceted burden of disease through raising awareness
• Bringing the private and public sectors together and creating firmer links with institutions of higher learning
• Ensuring an alignment of Higher Education Institutions with the National Strategic Plan that deals with HIV and AIDS, Sexually Transmitted Infections and tuberculosis (HAST)
• Promoting positive living and disclosure
• Raising awareness on Sexual Reproductive Health Rights.
External stakeholders that were present at the event included representatives from the Office of the Premier (KZN), People Living with HIV (PLHIV), the eThekwini Municipality District AIDS Council, the Independent Order of True Templars and various religious organisations.
Peer educators and students provided entertainment which included a dance piece and a musical performance.
Programme Director, Ms Pinky Myaka, conveyed that the HIV and AIDS Programme would be ineffective without the support of peer educators. ‘They are the backbone of this programme.’