30th International AIDS Candlelight Memorial at St. George's Cathedral

Pandit Deodat Tillack at the St. George’s Cathedral
On May 26, 2013, the Society Against Sexual Orientation Discrimination hosted a candlelight vigil in commemoration of the 30th International AIDS Candlelight Memorial at the steps of the St. George’s Cathedral, Georgetown, Guyana. 
The International AIDS Candlelight Memorial is attended annually on every third Sunday in May by millions of people, including grassroots communities around the world. The theme for this year’s Memorial is “In Solidarity,” which, according to the Global Network of People living with HIV, “emphasizes the need for people living with and affected by HIV to join hands and work together in the response to HIV.”
The memorial was therefore intended to raise awareness of HIV and AIDS, show support for people living with HIV, and to remember those we have lost to this disease – while working towards eliminating discrimination on the basis of this epidemic and all related cases. This year marks the fourth consecutive year – since 2010 – in which SASOD has been hosting this momentous event.
Among the supporters and attendees were human rights activists, members, volunteers and partners of SASOD, such as Red Thread and the University of Guyana Human Rights Group, among others – and was hosted by John Quelch, volunteer; and Zenita Nicholson, secretary on the board of trustees.     
At 5:00pm, amidst a quiet, sombre setting, Pandit Deodat Tallick urged everyone to recognise the importance of inclusion and the need for a multiplicity of voices advocating for change from an intolerant and homophobic society, to one that is accepting of all Guyanese, regardless of social, economic, or religious status; and one that is against any form of discrimination based on HIV and AIDS, as well as sexual orientation and gender identity. 
Pandit Tillack also expounded his statement to say that “everyone is deserving of equal rights under the law,” and let “no one" tell you that being lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender limits you from receiveing equal rights and protection under the law, "providing that u do not add to the dishonesty of the world.”
Other  activities of this memorial included singing, short commentaries, tributes, and a poem written by Fabian Thomas – titled “Zero” –  and recited by Quinton Anthony. In its aim to inspire, the poem said:
Participant standing at steps of the St. George’s Cathedral
Being diagnosed as HIV-positive
Can become power to live
Guided divinely,
Positive prevention, No re-infection…
To get to Zero,
Positive and negative
We must stand
In our Oneness
Keep working
Towards zero…
Because we are more
More than our sexual orientation
More than our HIV status
More than anti-retrovirals
More than risky behaviour
More than moments
Of passing pleasure
We are more
We are….enough.
There was also a poem written and recited by Lloyda Nicholas titled “Dear Death.” She read:
Lloyda Nicholas at the St. Georg’s Cathedral
“Dear Death, expect not that I will quietly go
To the dark pathways your iron grip force
Be sure, I will not lay down and expire
Into your nothingness, your darkness
But fiercely I war with you daily,
That my light in this universe
May n’er be snuffed out
By the cold and bitter hardness
Of your black heart, bereft of heed
Fiercely I war to save this body
In whose confines I choose to walk this earth
Each day a battle to lift this life in me
Beyond the reach of your thorny grip
Bleeding to live life effusively
Writhing in your arms is your daily struggle
So that when you have taken my exterior,
My memory you will not take
From those who lo9ved me
My gifts you will never remove
From those who worshipped me
For we are all gods
Careening to a certin death
But this life, the god in me,
Will war passionately
To change this humanity feeding off
The verve in me
Then and only then
And death, you would have lost the war,
Because I did not go quietly.”
As the evening came to a close with fading sunset, the first candle was lit by Karen De Souza, National Coordinator at Red Thread.
SASOD sincerely appreciates the participation of those who have attended this event, and offer a special thanks to the performers and volunteers who showed their relentless support of this noble cause – which is recognising and aiming to protect those who are vulnerable in society, being a voice for the voiceless, and working with civil society to promote equality for all Guyanese. According to SASOD, this is the true meaning of being “In Solidarity.”
Tags: HIV/AIDSPoetryEvent