Thursday, March 24, 2011

The International AIDS Candlelight Memorial

The International AIDS Candlelight Memorial, coordinated by the Global Network of People living with HIV is one of the world’s oldest and largest grassroots mobilization campaigns for HIV/AIDS awareness in the world. Started in 1983, the Candlelight Memorial takes place every third Sunday in May and is led by a coalition of some 1,200 community organizations in 115 countries hosting local memorials to honor the lives lost and raise social consciousness about HIV. The Candlelight is also much more than just a memorial. It provides opportunities for leadership development, policy advocacy, partnerships, and improvement of community mobilization skills. With 33 million people living with HIV today, the Candlelight continues to serve as an important intervention for global solidarity, breaking down barriers, and giving hope to new generations.

Mobilization & Advocacy Campaign

In addition to commemorating the lives of those lost and affected by AIDS, the Candlelight Memorial program serves as a community mobilization campaign beginning in December and ending with the international memorial in May. The campaign begins World AIDS Day (Dec. 1) when the Global Network of People living with HIV unveils the season's official poster and theme. Organizations register online for free on the Candlelight website to become official "coordinating organizations." Once registered, the Global Network of People living with HIV informs and guides coordinating organizations in the planning of their memorial activities. The Global Network of People living with HIV also works with the organizations to advocate for policy change by promoting the Candlelight Advocacy Platform during key global AIDS events throughout the year.

Coordinating Organizations

Coordinating Organizations are the community-based groups and programs organizing the Candlelight Memorial around the world. Coordinating organizations are diverse and include service organizations, academic institutions, health-care facilities, networks of people living with HIV, faith-based groups, businesses, media, and more. The Global Network of People living with HIV provides each organization with an online coordinator package including a manual and specially designed posters, web space to post event details, and membership of the campaign's global coalition. At the end of their memorials in May, coordinating organizations submit a brief final report online detailing what happened at their activities and the impact of the events on their communities.

The Memorials

Memorials range from small community vigils to multi-day national commemorations. In addition to remembrance, many coordinating organizations use the Candlelight Memorial as an opportunity to promote local AIDS services, encourage education and community dialogue, and advocate for the advancement of public policy. Memorials often include lighting of candles, marches, speeches, dramatic performances, spiritual and cultural rituals, and a safe space for interaction and community engagement. To kick-off the worldwide memorial events, the Global Network of People living with HIV will release a press statement to all major media. In 2011 a live Opening Ceremony will not be possible.

Regional & National Leadership

Leadership by people living with HIV/AIDS and those affected by the disease is an important part of the Candlelight Memorial program. The Global Network of People Living with HIV works year-round to achieve its mission in close partnership with the International Advisory Board, a board of regional coordinators representing each world region where the program takes place. A set of national coordinators lead the Candlelight in their countries, working with community coordinating organizations to cultivate their community events. Throughout the year, the Global Network of People Living with HIV supports exchange between regional and national coordinators.

Candlelight Calendar

October: Registration Opens
December: Start of mobilization campaign
May (Third Sunday): Worldwide Candlelight Memorial & Opening Ceremony


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