PH to launch world's first 'AIDS Hour' on May 14
MANILA, Philippines – The Philippines will launch "AIDS Hour" on Saturday, May 14, in observance of the 33rd International AIDS Candlelight Memorial (IACM).
AIDS Hour is the first in the country and in the world, the Department of Health (DOH) said in a statement Friday, May 13.
Filipinos are encouraged to light a candle from 6 pm to 7 pm on Saturday "as an act of solidarity and participation in the IACM" – an annual global event that commemorates the lives of those who died from HIV and AIDS.
"The launch of the first ever AIDS Hour in the world is a concrete example of the Philippines doing our part in the global effort against HIV and AIDS," Health Secretary Janette Garin said. (READ: AIDS could be wiped out by 2030 – UN)
"We need to raise awareness because many people living with HIV do not know what health services are available to them. Others are afraid to consult, or are socially stigmatized for being HIV-positive. We hope the AIDS Hour movement will spread not just in our country but globally."
The IACM has also been renamed the Philippine AIDS Candlelight Memorial (PACM) "to encourage nationwide observance."
The launch of the first AIDS Hour will be held this Saturday at Liwasang Aurora, Quezon City Memorial Circle.
Every year, the AIDS Hour will be led by a host city selected by the health department. "The host city will light or project a candle on a local landmark," the DOH said in the statement.
"As we join the rest of the world in this memorial, let us remember that every candle we light represent our struggle to overcome HIV and AIDS," Garin said.
From January 1984 to March 2016, DOH reported a total of 32,647 HIV cases in the country. Most of these cases (82% or 26,632 cases) were reported from January 2011 onwards.
In 2015, the DOH aimed to reduce by 40% the number of new cases of HIV/AIDS in the country.
About 41% or 13,387 people living with HIV are already on anti-retroviral treatment. The health department also offers free and confidential HIV testing in 22 HIV Treatment Hubs nationwide, and in Social Hygiene Clinics run by local government units.
The DOH said laboratory confirmation of HIV seropositivity allows patients to avail themselves of the PhilHealth Outpatient HIV/AIDS Treatment package. (READ: #StayNegatHIVe: Netizens show support for HIV/AIDS advocacy)
The Philippines is one of the countries that adopted the Sustainable Development Goals, with targets meant to be achieved in the next 15 years. The goals are ambitious, including the target to end epidemics such as AIDS by 2030.