blink | bmobile Helps Keep The Light on HIV

Back row – from left; Dr Oscar Ocho, Director of the Population Programme Unit at the Ministry of Health and Jacqueline Burgess, President Millennium Sistahs Trinidad and Tobago, with Lorna Henry’s siblings and children

Scores of candles illuminated the Auzonville Park at Tunapuna on Sunday May 18th 2014, as several persons came out to keep the light on HIV during the observation of the 31st International AIDS Candlelight Memorial. The theme for this year is ‘Let’s Keep the Light on HIV’. Organized by local NGO, Millennium Sistahs Trinidad and Tobago, the candlelight memorial raises awareness by remembering people who have lived and died from AIDS and is one of the world’s oldest and largest grassroots mobilization campaigns for HIV awareness in the world. Started in 1983, the International AIDS Candlelight Memorial takes place every third Sunday in May and is led by a coalition of 1,200 community organizations in 115 countries.

This year the local leg of the event was held in memory of popular HIV/AIDS activist and annual supporter of the candlelight memorial, Lorna Henry who passed away earlier this month. Henry was the founder of Mothers Two Mothers Trinidad and Tobago, a local NGO which works to prevent Mother-to-Child transmission of HIV through educational community programmes.

Feature speaker and Director of the Population Programme Unit at the Ministry of Health, Dr Oscar Ocho commended the Millennium Sistahs for organizing the event, as well as Lorna Henry and all the other persons who sacrificed over the years to give AIDS a face when no one else would. He explained why it was important to keep the spotlight on HIV every year. “Even with the best of treatment now available, the toll of HIV still bears heavily on persons living with HIV and their families. There’s also a disconnect between the messages that a highly sexual society such as ours sends and the reality of HIV. By keeping the spotlight on HIV, we minimize the risks, remind persons that there is no cure for AIDS and that anyone can become HIV positive.”

Gervon Abraham, blink | bmobile’s External Relations and Government Affairs Manager stated, “The blink | bmobile Foundation is proud to be a part of this event which not only keeps a focus on HIV/AIDS education but champions the dedication and hard work of many persons over the years in this area. We are happy to make a contribution that will have a direct impact on the lives of the communities we serve and to stand shoulder to shoulder with other like-minded citizens who give of their time, talent and resources to shape the future together.”

Event organizer and President of the Millennium Sistahs, Jacqueline Burgess, thanked everyone for attending as well as blink | bmobile for sponsoring the event. She noted, “It is because of your support that we are able to host this observance every year and continue our work of educating people about HIV.” She reminded attendees that HIV is everybody’s business and that by working together, Trinidad and Tobago can get to zero new infections. The evening’s proceedings began with an opening prayer by Prophetess Stacy Alfred followed by messages of solidarity by Abigail Cudjoe, Lorna Henry's sister, Susanna Williams-Baptiste, Executive Director of Mothers Two Mothers and David Soomarie, Programme Coordinator of Community Action Resource (CARE). Attendees were kept entertained by Calypso Monarch semi-finalist and National Calypso Queen finalist, Georgia McIntyre-Charles, as well as Rapso poet Hollis “Brother Book” Peters and singers Roger Johnson and Marva Mc Kenzie. The evening ended with the signing of a quilt by attendees and the lighting of candles and a procession around the Auzonville Park.

Signed tributes for those who have passed on