Action for AIDS, Singapore's only AIDS advocacy group has announced that they will conduct the AIDS Candlelight memorial in both English and Mandarin for the first time as many of Singapore's people living with HIV/AIDS (PWA) and family members are Chinese-speaking.
Besides prayers led by representatives of the Inter-Religious Organisation of Singapore, music recitals and a candlelight procession, there will also be an on-site multimedia display providing an insight into the world of PWAs. The presentation will also feature video snippets from 'Completely With/Out Character', the play performed by the late Paddy Chew, the first and only Singaporean to publicly reveal his HIV status in the media.
The Candlelight Memorial which has been observed in Singapore since 1991 aims to enhance public education and awareness about the disease and to remember all Singaporeans who have died from AIDS-related complications. The event aims also to encourage those living with and fighting the disease that they are not alone in their struggle.
"Highlighting such discrimination, stigmatisation and ignorance of HIV/AIDS and related issues among Singaporeans is important if we want to counter the pervasive discriminatory attitudes towards PWAs that exist at all levels of society," said Mr Brenton Wong, Honorary Secretary of Action for AIDS.
"Such attitudes are not conducive to AIDS prevention programmes. The only way to tackle this problem is to educate the public and clear the misconceptions they have about the virus and disease. The Memorial offers us a good opportunity to do that." He added.
AFA, an NGO, which does not receive any governmental funding, has been instrumental in promoting safe sex, implementing public education programmes and providing support for PWAs and their families in the conservative city-state.
The year 2000 saw two important developments regarding the status of PWAs in Singapore. In May, the government announced that HIV positive foreign spouses of Singaporeans would be allowed to remain in Singapore after numerous press reports detailing their plight and debates between the public and government agencies.
Under the Immigration Act, people with HIV/AIDS are classified as "prohibited immigrants" which means that they will be denied entry into Singapore.
The second was the lifting of the 24-hour burial regulations for PWAs who have passed away. AFA lobbied for four years to change the rule, which required the bodies of AIDS victims to be double-bagged and put in sealed coffins, and cremated or buried within 24 hours to cut the risk of exposure to the virus.
As at the end of 2000, some 500 of more than 1,300 Singaporeans who have been identified as being infected with HIV have died.
Singapore AIDS Candlelight Memorial 2001
20 May 2001, Sunday 7.00pm - 9.00pm
Youth Park (National Youth Council) Along Somerset Road
Admission is free. All are welcome.