Vigil marks World AIDS Day

More than 120 people took part in a
procession and candlelight vigil to mark World AIDS Day in Cayman on Thursday
evening, 1 December.

Children and young people made up
much of the crowd that walked from Heroes Square to the Elmslie Memorial Church
for a service organised by the Cayman AIDS Foundation.

Speaking at the church, University
College of the Cayman Islands president Roy Bodden said he believed that more
people are infected with the disease than official figures show.

As of September this year, 95
people have been infected with HIV since the first reported local case in 1985;
50 of those have developed AIDS and 35 have died.

Mr. Bodden told the children and
young people in the audience that he was happy to see so many of them
participating in the event “because you are the future”.

He urged them to become informed
about the disease and how to protect themselves from getting it and challenged
them to ensure they did not perpetuate discrimination and prejudice towards
people with HIV and AIDS.

He said that as devastating as HIV
and AIDS are, equally as devastating are the prejudices many people with the
disease face.

Merilda Miller, an advocate for
those suffering from AIDS and HIV, said she was disappointed in the way some
HIV sufferers in Cayman are treated, even by their own friends and families.

Other speakers at the event were
Linda Bush, who performed the symbolic lighting of the candles; Cayman AIDS
Foundation’s Margaret Michaud, and the Reverend Dave Hazel.

Reverend Hazel related his
experience in getting a HIV test for the first time – to get a work permit to
come to Cayman. “I still remember what it was like, sitting in the medical centre,
having to see some of the nurses and technicians coming, and wondering why they
were looking at me like that. I’m sure that kind of stigma prevents a lot of us
from… getting tested.”

He recalled advising couples he met
while conducting premarital counselling sessions to be tested for HIV. “[It]
helps to build trust and understanding of each other and going together and
sharing one another’s results can actually be a very liberating thing for a
relationship,” he said.

Throughout last week, the Health
Services Authority offered free HIV tests at hospitals and clinics in the
Cayman Islands.

More than 33 million people live
with HIV globally, and more than 25 million people have died of AIDS since
1981.

LOCALVigilmarksWorldSTORY

A large crowd that included many children and young people attended a ceremony to mark World AIDS Day on 1 December.
PHOTO: NORMA CONNOLLY
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