The 2015 AIDS Candlelight Vigil: Getting to Zero event was held at The 519 yesterday. This annual community memorial honours, remembers and celebrates the lives of people who have died of AIDS. It is an event that also recognizes and honours those affected by and living with HIV/AIDS.
Last night I attended this event. While there, it was hard not to be moved by the personal stories told by those who have lost friends, family members, and partners to HIV/AIDS. Also, I was truly confounded by the staggering number of lives lost to AIDS, as well as the stigma and politics that is still attached to HIV/AIDS (i.e. death certificate privacy versus public health; the criminalization of people with AIDs ; the lack of access to health care . etc.).
For those not familiar with the impact of HIV/AIDS in Canada, here are 7 quick facts (catie.ca, 2015):
- Every 3 hours, a person is infected with HIV in Canada.
- Half of the 71,300 Canadians living with HIV are men who have sex with men.
- Almost 1 in 4 people living with HIV in Canada are women.
- Aboriginal people make up 12% of new HIV infections in Canada, but only 4% of the Canadian population.
- 25% of Canadians are living with HIV and don’t know it?
- There are more than 10 different ways to prevent an HIV infection.
- Treatment has extended the life expectancy of young Canadians living with HIV to their early 70s.