For an approximate one and a half to two hours, staff, well wishers friends and supporters of the Jamaica AIDS Support for Life (JASfL) gathered at the institution’s headquarters to remember persons living with and those who have died from HIV/AIDS.
The format of this year’s candle light vigil followed similarly to those of previous years and was highlighted by the lighting of candles by representatives of civil society, disadvantaged groups and persons infected and most at risk of contracting HIV/AIDS. Lighting the candle on behalf of the LGBT community was Dane Lewis, Programme Manager for the Jamaica Forum for Lesbians, All-Sexuals and Gays (JFLAG).
Other memorable moments included:
- An impromptu performance by Tanya Stevens who called for the repeal of “some laws”, because a society cannot call for tolerance of others when its own laws are intolerant (para-phrasing).
- The symbolic reading of names of persons who have died because of HIV/AIDS. Unfortunately, owing to the age of some of the quilts the decision was taken to read the names from papers, however, that did not detract from the symbolism of the gesture.
- Tributes in song, dance and poetry to those infected and affected by the disease.
Throughout the night there were poignant reminders that the purpose of World AIDS Day is not to celebrate HIV/AIDS but to raise awareness that it is still a part of the health landscape and that all are affected. In reciting the history of the organization it was brought into sharp relief that the programmatic changes at JAS have been shaped and determined by each new understanding of this disease. Notably, in its early days people went to the organization to die i.e. after they have been infected now the entity provides a whole range of services that deals with prevention and care.
The event was solemn without being sombre and harkens back to the glory days of JASfL. It was the perfect and fitting conclusion to a day of rememberance.