Saturday, July 4, 2009

Mere Rain Does Not Extinguish Flame of Candlelight Memorial

CAP HAITIEN, Haiti, May 16, 2009 -- On my first overseas assignment with the Global Health Council, I was privileged to be part of the opening ceremony of the 2009 International AIDS Candlelight Memorial, originally planned to take place in front of the spectacular ruins of Sans Souci Palace (a World Heritage site) in Milot, Haiti. The Council has been managing this event, the world's oldest and largest AIDS awareness-raising event, since 2000. Last year, for the first time, they took the opening ceremony overseas, to Malawi; this year, they chose Milot, a village a few kilometers from Cap Haitien, the second largest city in Haiti on its northern coast.

Although the Milot event was rained out, the opening ceremony was still a great success when most of the events associated with it were held at the dinner that had already been scheduled for Cap Haitien after the event. The festivities started when Haitian Prime Minister Michele Duvivier Pierre-Louis arrived at Cap Haitien Airport in the afternoon and drove to Milot. She appeared before an enthusiastic crowd of local people at an event promoting the importance of getting tested for HIV.

Abbott Fund, one of the donors of the Candlelight Memorial, announced that it was donating 500,000 rapid HIV test kits as the kick-off of a nationwide HIV testing campaign. The testing initiative is a cooperative partnership between the Haitian government, the U.S. government, the Abbott Fund and Haitian health implementing organizations.

At the dinner, I had the pleasure of sharing a table with Prime Minister Pierre-Louis and her entourage, including the minister of tourism, who told us of his hopes to bring tourism back to the beautiful northern coast of Haiti, where Christopher Columbus landed in 1492 when he discovered America. The candle-lighting ceremony took place after the dinner, when Prime Minister Pierre-Louis and representatives of the two sponsors of the event -- Vice President Kathryn Guare of the Global Health Council and Dr. Myrna Eustache of Promoteurs Objectif Zero Sida (POZ) -- joined people living with HIV and AIDS to light the candles to remember those lost to AIDS, to advocate for improved programs and policies and to celebrate the courage of Haitians living with the disease.

No comments:

Post a Comment