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PHOTOS: Crowds descend on The 519 for AIDS Vigil

First major event of Pride Week strikes a sombre, celebratory note

Audience members wait for the start of the AIDS Vigil. Credit: Marcus McCann
In what has become one of Pride’s more touching annual traditions, hundreds of people gathered for a sunset vigil to commemorate those lost to HIV/AIDS and to honour those living with or affected by the disease.
 
The threat of rain earlier in the afternoon did not keep the crowds away. Friends and lovers hugged and held each other during the hour-long ceremony. The presentation began at twilight and ended after dark, as hundreds of candles lit up the park.
 
For years, the event took place on the Thursday before Pride Weekend, but when Toronto Pride pushed their dates back a week, organizers of the AIDS Vigil decided to leave their event right where it was in the calendar.
 
The vigil included performances by orchestral musicians The Brass Conspiracy; author and musician Vivek Shraya; ballads by Sarita De-Souza, Andrew Bathory and Emilio Zarris; and a performance by the Regent Park School Seniors’ Choir.
 
The vigil’s theme was Families: Chosen Families, Biological Families and All Families Living with HIV/AIDS.
 
Although this year marks the 30th anniversary of the first AIDS diagnosis and the 20th anniversary of the AIDS ribbon, the vigil did not dwell on these events; instead, it focused on the global AIDS family, as Todd Ross, director of community development at Casey House and part of the vigil’s organizing committee, told Xtra before the event.

“Of course the anniversary will be acknowledged, but it’s not our main theme,” says Ross. “The goal is always to remember, honour and celebrate.”

-with files from Rob Salerno