Heroes Project, in association with the Mumbai District AIDS Control Society (MDACS), organized the 26th International AIDS Candlelight Memorial to pay tribute to those who have lost their lives to AIDS.
This social initiative was held at Shivaji Park in Mumbai with the aim to educate the public about the various problems and stigma associated with HIV & AIDS. The day began with more than 28 different processions in various corners of Mumbai and converging at the venue to show solidarity for the initiative.
Nearly 10000 people participated in the Memorial. From the NGOs around 4000 people came to attend the memorial to show solidarity. There were 50 stalls organized by 40 organizations to spread awareness and provide information to people on issues related to HIV & AIDS. The event was covered by nearly 100 representatives from the print & electronic media.
The processions were organized by MDACS and partners and led by organizations like Avert Society, Family Health International, Population Services International, and Hindustan Latex Family Planning Promotion Trust, among others. Held on 19th May evening (instead of 17th May to accommodate vote counting), the Candlelight Memorial, part of a global movement observed across 115 countries, was well attended by thousands of people in Mumbai.
Themed, ‘Together, We Are the Solution’, the event received tremendous support from leading opinion leaders such as actor Hrithik Roshan and wife Suzzane, Dr. K Sujatha Rao, Special Secretary and Director General of National AIDS Control Organisation (NACO), philanthropist Mrs. Parmeshwar Godrej, Kumaramangalam Birla, Chairman, AV Birla Group, actor and director Farhan Akhtar, actor and director Nandita Das, author Shobhaa De and dancer choreographer Sandip Soparrkar. The event was also graced by Dr. Shantaram S. Kudalkar, Project Director, Mumbai District AIDS Control Society. Mumbai’s popular radio jockey, Malishka, was the master of ceremonies.
Keynote speaker Dr. K. Sujatha Rao addressed the gathering and Hrithik & Suzzane Roshan encouraged everyone to work together to end stigma and discrimination against people living with HIV. Kumaramangalam Birla stressed the need to continue the focus on ensuring equal opportunity and progress for those with HIV at the workplace. Farhan Akhtar recited a special poem of HOPE penned by Javed Akhtar for the occasion, Nandita Das described the plight of the affected as Mrs. Parmeshwar Godrej’s grandchildren, Aryaan and Azaar accompanied children from the community on to the stage and urged people to support them in a powerful statement against stigma and discrimination. Vikram Hazra from the Art of Living performed evocative bhajans and Shobhaa De read a passage from the book ‘AIDS Sutra’.
Children from the community shared their memorable stories and performed a soulful enactment of their hopes and aspirations. Dancer choreographer, Sandeep Soparrkar and India’s catwalk queen Jesse Randhawa performed a dance tribute that portrayed the anguish and acceptance of people living with HIV through the fusion of stylized, modern dance forms. Singer Gayatri Ganjawala sang an anthem that exhorted people to overcome stigma. Six community speakers remembered those who died of AIDS related illnesses and pleaded to every one to be sensitive to PLHIV and to support the efforts to improve the care & support services in the country.
The evening came to an end with every one present in the Memorial along with Hrithik and Suzzane Roshan lighting the candles and observing a moment’s silence to commemorate those who have passed on because of AIDS.