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35th annual AIDS candlelight vigil highlights need for continued advocacy

Last Updated Jun 19, 2019 at 12:22 am EDT

Hundreds gathered at Barbara Hall Park in the Church-Wellesley Village for the 35th annual AIDS candlelight vigil on Tuesday evening.

The theme of this year’s vigil was ‘yesterday, today and tomorrow.’

Organizers say it explores the past, present, and future of HIV-AIDS illness and advocacy.

Co-host Kero Saleib tells CityNews the event still remains relevant and important over three decades after it began.

“Because of a lot of newcomers that come into the country, the education needs to continue happening,” he says. “If we’re going to talk about the sex education curriculum that’s being thrown away – one of the imp things is that we need to make sure that HIV is not a death sentence and not make it fear-based in terms of education for younger children.”

He adds that stigma and shame surrounding HIV causes a lot of people to suffer in silence and it needs to be eliminated.

“Unfortunately I’ve had some friends who let themselves pass away from AIDS because it was easier for them not to say anything and deal with it and just accept the shame that they were facing. And we’re seeing that stigma is on the rise again.”

An estimated six people are infected with HIV in Canada each day.