Singapore AIDS Candlelight Memorial—remembering those who have passed on.
Contributed By Yeo Zhi Qi
|CN PHOTO: Desmond Tan|
The unceasing rain was no deterrent for the multi-religious and multi-ethnic group of people at the Singapore AIDS Candlelight Memorial 2010. The theme—Many Lights, One Community—was apt for the somber occasion, where people came together to pay tribute to those who had lost their lives to the disease.
Affecting 34 million people around the world and tipping 3,000 locally, the disease has warranted increasing attention over the years. Still, there remains a negative connotation that accompanies the condition. Roy Chan, president of Action for AIDS Singapore said in his welcome speech, “As a country, we still haven’t been able to overcome the stigma, and that cripples our response as a society in handling prevention.”
AfA hopes to reduce the effects of negative perceptions through programs and events such as the AIDS Candlelight Memorial which functions not only to increase public awareness of the disease but also dispel societal misconceptions. Additionally, the memorial serves to give loved ones an avenue to grieve for their loss and have some form of closure.
On May 16, family members and friends gathered in front of the open stage at Hong Lim Park to remember their loved ones who had lost their lives to the disease. A 10-minute tribute video set a solemn yet hopeful tone for the night, which also included poetry dedicated from a daughter to her mother and a medical worker to his deceased patient. Religious leaders representing the various religions in Singapore (Inter-Religious Organization) presided over the service in prayers for the deceased.
In her address to the crowd, guest of honor, Denise Phua, Member of Parliament for Jalan Besar GRC, highlighted that “AIDS is no respecter of race or religion.” She called for the public not to distance themselves from patients with HIV and AIDS.
Phil Loh, clinic manager for AfA told City News that the number one misconception people have with regards to AIDS is that people who are infected with it lead a promiscuous lifestyle. Emphasizing that AIDS is a manageable chronic illness, Loh stressed that even a monogamous wife could get infected with the disease by her husband who frequents brothels; hence, the need for moral education.
Aside from AfA, organizers for Many Lights, One Community included FIRSTHand (a service by City Harvest Community Service Association for the terminally-ill) and Tan Tock Seng Hospital.
FIRSTHand has close to 80 volunteers providing emotional support to HIV and AIDS patients by doing home and ward visits where volunteers befriend patients and provide help such as grocery delivery and medical escorts.
The highlight of the night was when many tea-lights were lit as a tribute to the deceased. As the night drew to a close, volunteers from FIRSTHand performed the songs “I Will Remember You” by Amy Grant and “Hero” by Mariah Carey, as a tribute to the bravery and courage of those who spent years fighting the disease.