~ Prime Minister Romeo-Marlin delivers address ~
PHILIPSBURG–The annual St. Maarten AIDS Foundation Candlelight Memorial was held on Sunday and Prime Minister of St. Maarten Leona Romeo-Marlin gave a special message to attendees on the theme “Reflecting on our Past, Preparing for our Future!”
The day is observed world-wide for AIDS victims and to express solidarity with people living with HIV.
When the AIDS Candlelight Memorial was first held in 1983, no-one could have predicted the scale and impact of the global HIV epidemic that is now well into its third decade. With millions of lives lost and close to 37 million people currently living with the HIV, the global community remains profoundly challenged by this epidemic.
The Memorial emphasises the need for people living with and affected by HIV to join hands and reflect on the past and the precious lives that have been lost. The Memorial also calls for sharing stories of challenge, perseverance, and triumph to educate the current and next generations about what the AIDS movement has achieved over the last three decades.
“On behalf of the people of St. Maarten, I would like to commend the St. Maarten AIDS Foundation and HOPE for their commitment to organising this event, considering the circumstances following the devastation of Hurricanes Irma and Maria on our island.
“With a theme of ‘Reflecting on our Past, Preparing for our Future,’ the International AIDS Candlelight Memorial ceremony is a unique event that remembers and honours those who lost their lives to AIDS and gives the much-needed support to persons in our community living with HIV and affected households,” said Romeo-Marlin on Sunday.
“If I should reflect on the past, when I was a young adult speaking about HIV/AIDS was very much taboo and intimidating to some extent. You almost felt, if you were the person that brought up the subject, that your peers would think that your interest was based on you or a close relative that may have acquired the HIV virus.
“Fortunately, for us this has progressively improved over the years and speaking of HIV/AIDS and its impact on our community has for some time been very popular and commonplace. As is common with many popular trends, over time the interest dies and it’s no longer the hot topic it once was. This seems to be the case for HIV/AIDS.”
She said government is faced with limited resources, but that does not prevent it from committing whatever little it has to support programmes that tackle prevention, treatment and care services for all affected by HIV.
“I truly believe that only as a collective can we be successful in combating HIV/AIDS. You can count on my support,” she concluded.