If May 2019 gave us anything to remember, it definitely was the Candlelight Memorial Event. The event that struck across 13th to 17th of May brought together a number of organisations and individuals to commemorate those who have succumbed to AIDS, encourage those living with HIV and reinvigorate the fight against the disease. The biggest catch for us of course was that with our youthful touch and vibe, we were trusted to take lead on the event and we set right away to work.
We were up early Monday 13th to 14th May 2019, combing through the community of Kisenyi, at the venues of Muzana and Kiti. Kisenyi is one of the most bustling places in Kampala with people conducting business, boarding buses for travel or just running through. It has a high influx of young people and was an ideal place to start our outreach roadmap. HIV counselling and testing, TB Testing and other services were on the menu, from the morning till late in the evening.
Then we took the same outreach out to Katanga, another place where the young people in Kampala can be found. This time, we literally brought the town to a standstill, with our flash mob right in the middle of the trading centre.
While our young people pulled off those moves you only see in the music videos, others were filtering through the community conducting sexuality education and offering free male and female condoms. After a satisfying day, we retired, ready for Thursday, which would be the day for lighting the candles.
First though, we went to Katwe, the Mechanic Centre of Kampala. Another flash mob brought the community members out in numbers who enjoyed the services alongside the performances. That was one day whose time ran really fast and before we knew it, we were at the city square where we lit the candles.
It was a lovely evening, joined by officials from the government led by Minister Without Portfolio Hajji Abdul Nadduli and the parliamentary HIV committee, Ireland Embassy led by the Ambassador H.E William Carlos himself, Uganda AIDS Commission led by the Director General Dr Nelson Musoba.
We set up one of the most interactive cafe, where Maj Rubaramira Ruranga shared his story on how he has lived strong with HIV for 34 years. The panel also discussed the role of the private sector in the fight, before we sparked our candles, evoked memories and lit the night.
Finally, on Friday 17th we woke up to a rainy day and hit the road with a march past in memory of the day. So good a match it was that we had young people leaving their business to join us through the march and all the way to the stakeholders’ dialogue. Here, we were joined by representatives from Parliament, who came laden with the news that this coming financial year, government will be allocating more money to Uganda AIDS Commission, and technically more money for the fight against HIV.
In Uganda, since the early 1980s, about 2million people are estimated to have succumbed to HIV related illness. Thanks to Uganda AIDS Commission and partners, for having seen the way we ran through #CandleLight19, we are certain that our baby steps are heading into the right direction.