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International AIDS Candlelight Memorial - 2002-05-17

On Sunday (May 19th), the annual AIDS Candlelight Memorial is scheduled to be held in 85 countries. Organizers say it’s the world’s oldest and largest annual grassroots HIV / AIDS event.

The AIDS Candlelight Memorial was first held in New York and San Francisco in 1983. The commemorations were rather small then. The cause of AIDS was not known. And cases of the disease were measured in the thousands, not the millions, as they are today.

It’s estimated more than 40-million people are currently living with HIV, the virus that causes AIDS.

Mathew Matassa, the memorial’s coordinator, says one million people are taking part this year’s commemoration.

He says, "Participation in the International AIDS Candlelight Memorial this year is an increase of 200 percent over last year, which brings it to about 15-hundred communities."

Over 20-million people are believed to have died from HIV / AIDS over the past 20 years. Mr. Matassa says above all, the event is a time of remembrance.

He says, "The first object and the founding objective was basically to remember those people who have passed on because of HIV. And it’s grown to also support people who are living with HIV and AIDS – as well as to create some awareness in the community. And to help decrease the stigma around HIV, especially in youth and women."

The theme of the International AIDS Candlelight Memorial is “Share your vision for a brighter tomorrow.” Organizers say it’s an invitation for people to reflect on how the lessons of HIV/AIDS can help bring about a healthier future.