Message to mark the 30th AIDS Candelight Memorial - 19 May 2013
Nga mihi ki a koutou.
This year marks the 30th anniversary of the Aids Candlelight Memorial. When the first Memorial was held in San Francisco in 1983, few would have predicted that 30 years later we would look back on the suffering caused by a global epidemic that has claimed more than 30 million lives.
The theme of this year’s Candlelight Memorial – in solidarity – underscores the toll the epidemic has taken, and the need to redouble efforts to fight its spread.
Foremost, as a memorial, the call for solidarity reminds us that we should never forget those who died before their time. The loved ones of those who died grieve for them still. And in doing so, we particularly remember the courage of those who, in the earliest days of the epidemic, cared for the sick when there were no effective treatments. They did so despite the stigma they often experienced, ensuring that those who died did so with love, dignity and support.
The call for solidarity also emphasises the need for those living with HIV, and those affected by HIV, to continue to work together. While HIV-Aids is now a chronic disease that can be controlled by medication, many people, especially in the developing world, continue to lack access to these treatments, continue to fall victim to it, and continue to experience discrimination.
Much has been achieved, and much remains to be done. Worldwide, while the numbers of those dying has been significantly reduced, as has the number of new infections, every death, and every new infection, is one too many. In New Zealand, the number of new HIV diagnoses reported in 2012 was still higher than at any time in the 1990s.
Tonight, as we stand in solidarity with people from throughout the world in lighting our candles, we recommit ourselves to efforts to stop the spread of HIV-Aids.
As Governor-General and Patron of the New Zealand AIDS Foundation, I send my best wishes to everyone attending the 2013 International AIDS Candlelight Memorial. Kia ora, kia kaha, kia manawanui, huihui tātou katoa.
Lt Gen The Rt Hon Sir Jerry Mateparae, GNZM QSO
Governor-General of New Zealand