Armenia lights a path to a brighter future for HIV and AIDS Memorial Day

“Today we are not only remembering those who died, but reinforcing our resolve to fight against HIV and AIDS,” said Mark Kelly, World Vision Armenia National Director.

Today we are not only remembering those who died, but reinforcing our resolve to fight against HIV and AIDS More than 300 university students, journalists, government and NGO representatives attended an event at the Chamber Music Theatre in Yerevan, the capital. Young singers, youth choirs and orchestras communicated their message on HIVprevention through their performances.

Red candles were lit in the hall forming a red ribbon, the symbol of HIV awareness. Brochures and booklets on HIV and AIDS were distributed to all the participants of the event.

“It is very important for young people to learn about HIV in order to protect themselves from this dangerous virus,” says Ofelia Karapetyan, a student from Yerevan.

Candles were lit during the events – held in Yerevan, and in Lori and Tavush regions, north-eastern Armenia – to symbolise the 83 lives, including those of two children, which have already been lost to AIDS in Armenia.

Renate Ehmer, the UNAIDS Inter-Country Coordinator for Southern Caucasus, stressed that the Candlelight Memorial Day is not only a day for commemorating friends and family members, but also a day of hope, because there is treatment that helps people with HIV live longer and healthier life, and because there are ways to stop the epidemic by raising knowledge on HIV and fighting stigma and discrimination.

Several factors, such as poverty, economic and social insecurity and migration to the high prevalence countries, contribute to the spread of HIV in Armenia. There are 378 registered HIV carriers although the actual number is estimated to be up to 3,000 – a considerable figure for a country with a population of three million. Although Armenia still is a low-prevalence country, only joint efforts by the government, NGOs, church, mass media and the general public can help to slow down the rates of HIV infection and prevent an HIV epidemic.

It is very important for young people to learn about HIV in order to protect themselves from this dangerous virus The Candlelight Memorial takes places every year on May 21, in more than 4,500 communities in 93 countries. The purpose of this global action, initiated by the Global Health Council, is to remember those who died of AIDS and contribute to the prevention of HIV.

World Vision in partnership with UNAIDS, the National Centre for AIDS Prevention, ‘Real World, Real People’ and ‘Force’ NGOs coordinated events for the third time.

Through its programme focused on HIV prevention, World Vision helps to educate people in Armenia about HIV and to fight discrimination related to HIV and AIDS. For the past four years, World Vision facilitated training sessions and distributed educational materials, organised children’s theatre performances and television programmes on HIV issues. With World Vision support, school children and young people from Armenia participated in global actions, such as ‘Lesson for Life’, AIDS Memorial quilt and other worldwide campaigns.