Yes, I'm gay. I probably was since the day I was born. On my 21st birthday, I sort of had my debut. I came out to my parents. A little drama from mom, and some indifference from dad. An above-average coming out. Almost perfect.

Nine years later, two weeks before my 30th birthday, I found out... I'M HIV POSITIVE.

And so my story begins... I'm BACK IN THE CLOSET.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

AIDS Candlelight Memorial

While chatting last week with a trusted friend who was aware of my HIV status, I was again reminded how near I may have always been to HIV and AIDS. Apparently, someone who I knew, who had passed away less than a year after we had last met, died with it.

This had been a guy who I had met a couple of times and had sex with, and although the conditions of our encounters at the time did not include my knowing that I may have been HIV-positive myself, I’m 100% sure we stuck to safer sex. I would still not consider him as one of the possible sources of my own infection.

So was I shocked? Not really. But I never had a clue. I was told he had been diagnosed late and that only close family members and friends knew, but considering that at some point in time, we had each probably known of our HIV-statuses and kept it secret from each other, it could’ve been an opportunity to support a fellow-pusit, not to mention an old friend.

And as May 17th approaches, I will think about our friend. May 17th is International AIDS Candlelight Memorial Day.

The International AIDS Candlelight Memorial aims to honor and support those who have been affected in some way by the global HIV/AIDS pandemic, and fulfill the vision for a world free of AIDS. It is a program of the Global Health Council, which is touted to be one of the oldest and largest grassroots mobilization campaigns for HIV and AIDS awareness in the world.

Started in 1983, the Candlelight Memorial takes place every third Sunday in May and is led by a coalition of some 1,200 community organizations in 115 countries hosting local memorials that honor the lost and raise social consciousness about the disease. I wonder who the leading organization here in the Philippines is. Why haven’t I ever heard of this event in the country before? Hmm...

Memorials are said to range from small community vigils to multi-day national commemorations. In addition to remembrance, many coordinating organizations use the Candlelight Memorial as an opportunity to promote local AIDS services, encourage education and community dialogue, and advocate for the advancement of public policy. Memorials often include lighting of candles, marches, speeches, dramatic performances, spiritual and cultural rituals, and a safe space for interaction and community engagement.

With 33 million people living with HIV today, the Candlelight Memorial is said to serve as an important intervention for global solidarity, breaking down barriers, and giving hope to new generations.

The goals of the Candlelight Memorial are to commemorate and celebrate the lives of those lost and affected by AIDS, to promote respect and inclusiveness, and give a voice to those affected by the virus, particularly women and children, to demonstrate the leadership of civil society and its critical partnership with government in the fight against the disease, to serve as an occasion for community dialogue, services and education, sharing of best practices, commitment, and creative expression, and to advance public policy addressing AIDS, and related health and social conditions, at all levels of government. Hmm, attention local HIV/AIDS NGOs... these do sound like great goals, don’t they?

The Candlelight Memorial program is guided by the core values of dignity, diversity, transparency, global solidarity, and professional and personal integrity. Neat, huh?

So with that, don’t light a candle for me just yet. I’m still alive and kicking. I think the most ultimate purpose of this Candlelight Memorial, more than commemorating losses, would be to raise HIV awareness in the general population. It’s time to stop sweeping HIV under the rug. Be afraid if you have to, if that will keep you safe... but more importantly, be aware. Light a candle for that.

Read more about the International AIDS Candlelight Memorial and light a candle online at their website,


bampiraako said...

Great goals indeed...

Hope candlelight memorial will enlighten and inspire negative minds to THINK POSTIVE!

The Green Man said...


I attended and spoke at the candle light ceremony last Sunday (May 17, 09) in Puerto Princess, Palawan. The reception is overwhelming and the people accepted me as me. They are very accommodating and I felt their sincerest gratitude.

Let's keep the fire burning :-D