25th International AIDS Candlelight Memorial
‘Project Abstinence’, a multi-denominational group initiated by the Anglican Church, Basseterre St. Kitts seeking to influence change towards developing a lifestyle in which abstinence until marriage and monogamy thereafter becomes a norm, joined global Health for the third year in the AIDS Candlelight Memorial. This year marks 25 years since the communities of caring people across the globe – from Argentina to Zambia- come together to honour the memory of those who died of HIV/AIDS, show support for those who are living with HIV/AIDS, raise awareness of HIV/AIDS and to mobilize the community in the fight against this disease.
In St. Kitts some 150 persons from more that 20 organizations and groups gathered at the St. George’s Parish Church, Cayon Street in Basseterre, the capital of the Federation of St. Kitts-Nevis, on Sunday May 18, 2008 from 6.00 p.m. We shared in an evening of education, entertainment, praise and prayer. Organisations made contributions to the service through presentations in the form of song, dance and inspirational speaking. Two guest speakers were invited to talk on different aspects of the AIDS Pandemic. Reverend Isaiah Phillip, the Vice Chairman of the Christian Council, elaborated on the church’s response to this HIV/AIDS situation as it exists in St. Kitts and Nevis. The highlight of the evening was an address given by the second speaker, Dr. Derrek Jeffers. Dr. Jeffers spoke on the topic, ‘HPV in St. Kitts’. The information he provided regarding the Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) and its link with HIV/AIDS generated a lively discussion and led to a number of questions about action taken to sensitise the population about this virus. Also included on the programme was the preview of the first Music Video produced by ‘Project Abstinence’ featuring 17 students from five secondary schools and an abstinence message in a song written by two young abstinent advocates during a training intervention on communication skills.
In an effort to support those persons who have been infected with or affected by HIV/AIDS, contributions were collected during a presentation from one of the groups. This money has been given to FACTTS – a group committed to Facilitating Access to Confidential Testing, Treatment and Support.
The memorial feature of the service involved the lighting of the memorial candle and the recognition of persons who have lost their lives to AIDS. Mrs Juletta Fyfield Henderson, President of FACTTS, lit the Memorial Candle and placed the names of the two persons whose deaths have been confirmed by the Ministry of Health as being due to the AIDS, within a stand specially made for the Candle. Subsequent to the lighting of the Memorial Candle 20 representatives of community and church groups lit individual candles. The remaining persons in the congregation were then able to light their candles from the ones that were already lit. The glow emanating from the candle light and the silence that ensued provided the ideal atmosphere for reflection and prayer.
The following prayers were then offered by various persons:
- Persons Lost to HIV/AIDS and those affected by the loss by Rev. Dr. Wychely Gumbs , [Methodist]
- People living with HIV/AIDS, by Rev. Fr. Elroy Zakers [Anglican]
- Care givers and for research work in this area , by Ms Gloria Mills [SDA]
- Persons committed to ATM, by Rev. Algenon Lewis [Moravian]
- Persons involved in risky behavior, by Pastor Ben Browne [Church of God]
With candles still lighted Ms Mariece Roberts, the reigning Carnival Queen in song encouraged persons gathered to carry our candles through the ‘darkness’ for all to see.
The support given at the AIDS Candlelight Memorial is growing. This year’s event showed 100% increase in attendance over 2007 and an even greater increase over the first year, 2006. The presence of clergy from various denominations and representatives from church groups, community organisations and schools was indeed encouraging and indicative of the collaborative effort being made in the fight against HIV/AIDS. Project Abstinence deems this memorial service a success since the objectives of this service have been met. Furthermore, we look forward to the continued growth of this event and an increase in support of this initiative.