As rain poured down, people huddled under umbrellas cradling small candles while the names of those who died from HIV/AIDS over the past year were read aloud at a candlelight vigil June 21.
The crowd of about 200 gathered around the AIDS Memorial in Cawthra Park, on which are inscribed more than 2,500 names. The vigil honours, remembers and celebrates those who have died from the disease and recognizes all those affected by, and living with, HIV/AIDS.
The annual AIDS Candlelight Vigil is an emotional event and traditionally is the unofficial start of the Pride season.
Co-hosts Angela Robertson, chair of the Black Coalition for AIDS prevention, and Mark Fisher, director of technology with the Ontario HIV Treatment Network, told personal stories about how AIDS has affected their lives. Fisher lost his husband.
“HIV/AIDS has touched all our lives,” Robertson told the crowd. “We gather here every year and call out names. That is how we remember.”
Robertson also called out the names of community groups like Black CAP and Casey House, as well as activist movements like ACT UP, which have played a key role in raising awareness, pushing for political action, healing the sick and comforting family members.