News
December 4, 2009
Candlelight and rose ceremony

Stigma and discrimination are still prevalent and relevant today, despite the advancement of information and technology in the fight against HIV and AIDS.{{more}}

This point was made by Dr. Jules Ferdinand, as he addressed a small and sombre gathering at the St. George’s Cathedral.

There, on Tuesday evening, persons congregated for a candlelight and rose ceremony to mark World AIDS Day.

The hymns and choruses sung, along with the prayers and scripture readings from the Bible, all conveyed solidarity and homage to the persons who had died from the disease and those infected or affected by the virus and disease since it first raised its head in St. Vincent and the Grenadines around 1984.

The ceremony, organized by the House of Hope Society and other stakeholders in the fight against HIV/AIDS, also saw a moment of silence being observed, as well as the lighting of candles and the placing of roses in memory of those who had passed on.

The event was held under the theme ‘Universal access and human rights’.

Ferdinand, the evening’s feature speaker, said that equal opportunity and privileges should be bestowed on HIV positive persons just as they are on ‘healthy’ individuals.

“Persons who have contracted HIV have rights just like us, and everything that you and I deserve as a citizen that person with HIV/AIDS deserves it, too.”

“And I would hastily say,” Ferdinand added, “that because of their condition they probably deserve more than you and I.”

The public attitude towards persons with HIV/ AIDS has changed little over the years, Ferdinand observed, although the education process has improved, and thanks to technology, medication allows for more normal, healthier lives, thus lifting what was considered a death sentence from over the heads of HIV positive individuals.

“It is amazing how paranoid some persons can be when they discover that a friend, a relative or colleague is HIV positive.”

“Oh what a shame it is when you and I form those kinds of prejudices…. It causes us to pause and reflect to see whether or not in our own way we may be guilty of adding to that pain by our facial expression and body language; that we are jabbing that knife into the HIV person’s emotions.”

Ferdinand said that there is hope with the news that there is a decline in the incidence of HIV/AIDS here in St. Vincent and the Grenadines, and with medication that prevents the transfer of the virus from mother to unborn babies.

But this news, he said, is no reason for individuals to rest on their laurels and become complacent, for according to him, as long at there is one person infected or affected by the virus, the battle continues.

According to United Nations figures, there are 33.4 million persons world-wide living with HIV/AIDS.

This is down 17 per cent from 2008.

Sub Saharan Africa records 67 per cent of the AIDS infections world wide. This is followed by the Caribbean, with close to 250,000 infected.

Here at home, a reported 1,144 persons are infected.(JJ)