Once again, and following the recent revival of this event, community groups and campaigners are hosting a memorial event and vigil to mark World AIDS Day in Cardiff.
The event, which has grown since its revival during the pandemic, will commemorate, celebrate and educate. Commemorate those who have been lost to HIV and AIDS, celebrate those who are still with us thanks to HIV treatment, and educate, - reminding us of the huge medical and scientific advances that have been made since the start of the HIV/AIDS epidemic in the 1980s.
The focal point of this poignant event will be the Tree of Life, a tree planted in 1994 in Gorsedd Gardens, Cathays Park, in memory of all those who lost their lives to AIDS.
Rob Keetch, Chair of the organising committee, said:
“We have come so far since the 1980s in terms of medical advances which enables people living with HIV to live full and productive lives. If people have undetectable viral loads, it means that the virus is untransmittable. While we celebrate that, we cannot forget those in our community who lost their lives to the virus.
“This is an annual opportunity to gather together to commemorate their lives, to remember the contribution they made to our families, friendship groups, our community and to medical research and public awareness.
“I’m extending a huge ‘thank you’ to those who continue to work in both the voluntary sector and in health services to advance medical care and fight stigma. Their work is invaluable.”
“This year, we also want to acknowledge those who have publicly stated that they are HIV positive. They are pioneers in the fight to end stigma and having role models prepared to share their stories will help educate others. That’s why this year’s event and the contributions people make will be to Commemorate, Celebrate and Educate.”
The event starts at 5.45pm, gathering at the Reardon Smith Theatre, Park Place, Cardiff. Guests will be welcomed by the Lord Mayor of Cardiff, Cllr Graham Hinchey. There will be speakers from Terrence Higgins Trust Cymru and Fast Track Cities, two charities working tirelessly to help reduce the stigma of HIV and to help test people, prevent transmission and treat those living with HIV. There will also be performances from South Wales Gay Men’s Chorus and singer Gavin Sheppard.
There will then be a lantern-lit procession to the Tree of Life in Gorsedd Gardens, where attendees will hang red ribbons, the universal symbol of awareness and support for those living with HIV. Rev Sarah Jones, Priest-in-Charge at St John the Baptist Church in Cardiff, will lead a moment of reflection. There will also be an opportunity to remember those lost to AIDS and HIV by writing their names on paper leaves which will also be hung on the tree. Hot drinks will be available at Brodies coffee cabin in Gorsedd Gardens.