The International Candlelight Memorial
“Leading the Way to a World Without AIDS”
20 May 2007
The annual International AIDS Candlelight Memorial, a program of the Global Health Council, is one of the largest and oldest grassroots mobilization campaigns for HIV/AIDS awareness in the world. The Candlelight Memorial occurs on the third Sunday of every May and is led by volunteer coordinators who host memorials for their communities worldwide. Now in its 24th year, the Candlelight is meant to honor all those who have been affected by the AIDS pandemic.
But the Candlelight is much more than just a memorial. It’s also an opportunity to educate about HIV/AIDS, influence local and national policy makers, and create community dialogue about prevention, care, and treatment for the disease. It’s an occasion for coordinators to improve their community mobilization skills, partner with other organizations and professionals in their field, and find unity within a global coalition of AIDS activists.
In 2006, over 900 Candlelight coordinators planned memorials in 110 countries, reaching tens of thousands of people. The Global Health Council works with international partners to recruit and counsel community Candlelight coordinators. The Candlelight began in 1983 in the United States, at a time when little was known about HIV. Today, an estimated 25 million people have died as a result of AIDS and 40 million are currently estimated to be infected with the disease.
Coordinators worldwide plan community candlelight memorials in many different ways. Some memorials are large and small, with many resources or a few, with simple goals or complex. Most use the occasion to light candles to remember those who have been affected by AIDS, while others incorporate educational activities and speeches, including advocacy messages that urge political leaders to improve policies regarding the disease.