World AIDS Day 2020 – Candle in the Window
The National HIV Story Trust (NHST) is marking World AIDS Day 2020 by encouraging people to ‘come together’ by placing a virtual candle of remembrance in their window at 6pm on 1st Dec.
The NHST, a charity dedicated to filming, recording and preserving the history of those affected by the AIDS epidemic of the 1980s and 90s, want the virtual candles (which are free to stream via the NHST website) to also serve as a visual reminder that HIV/AIDS is still with us.
Paul Coleman, co-founder of the NHST, said: “2020 has been a tough year for everyone. With multiple lockdowns and people unable to meet in groups, we wanted to show that all those whose lives have been touched by HIV are still connected, that on World Aids Day, they, their stories, and the people they want to remember, have not been forgotten. This year, as we all look back on a very different ‘normal’, we want to encourage remembrance of those lost to HIV/AIDS and to highlight the many stories of love and compassion we have collected from people who lived through the AIDS epidemic.
“This of course includes honouring all those who helped and who continue to help in the fight against the virus – the nurses, doctors, carers, volunteers.
“Despite some frankly pretty horrific experiences, a lot of people who shared their stories with us spoke about how simple acts of compassion were so significant to them or their loved ones at a very difficult period in their lives – some light in an otherwise dark time.”
For all the positive developments over the years – HIV/AIDS is no longer the death sentence it once was – it is still with us. Both in terms of long-term survivors and new infections. Whilst new treatments have allowed HIV in affluent countries to be managed and give people a “U” for undetectable status, this is not true worldwide, and not true in our own recent history.
Paul continued, “we hope the simple act of taking a moment to remember someone – or for some of us, unfortunately, many people – we can bring people together and inspire a conversation about how we look after an ageing HIV population – people who charter unknown waters on a daily basis – and find ways to continue to reduce new infections.”
The NHST is asking people to share a photo of their virtual candle in the window. “In addition to remembering a loved one, it could also be a tribute to the nurses, doctors, carers, friends & family, and activists who played a significant role in the epidemic”, Paul Coleman said.
Stream the candle here for free and tag the NHST on social media (Facebook; Twitter; Instagram) or use the hashtag #candleinthewindow. You are also invited to share some lines about who your candle is in remembrance of, if you would like to.
The Candle In the Window initiative is the latest in a series of developments for the Trust this year despite the impact of Covid-19. Others have included securing a grant from the Wellcome Trust for the London Metropolitan Archive’s Positive History: Preserving the Archives of HIV/AIDS – Care and Testimony project to which the NHST has contributed its 150+ hours of interviews and a huge transcription of 150 hours of filmed interviews to make it easier for research and public access, supported by Gilead Science. NHST’s collection of interviews was also used to inform the play Moment of Grace which looked at a fictionalised account of Princess Diana’s landmark visit to London’s first HIV ward and the impact her gloveless handshake with a patient had on public and media attitudes to people living with HIV.
Notes to editors
- World AIDS Day takes place on 1st December and was founded in 1988
- Globally, 38 million people live with the virus. In the UK over 103,800 people are HIV-positive and in the UK over 4,450 people each year are newly diagnosed
- The NHST virtual candles can be found here
- In July, the London Metropolitan Archives received a grant from the Wellcome Trust to support its Positive History: Preserving the Archives of HIV/AIDS: care and testimony project. The NHST’s interviews with over 100 contributors has been donated to this project and transcription of all interviews is now underway, making the archive more accessible for the public and research purposes
About the NHST
The National HIV Story Trust (NHST) was established as a repository of real life stories, to preserve the history of the HIV/AIDS pandemic, remembering the stories of tragedy but also those of love, compassion and humanity. The lessons from the pandemic remain as pertinent today as they did in the 80s/90s. The NHST hopes the 100+ interviews filmed with survivors and victims’ families, partners and medical professionals, will be a voice for those who didn’t survive, a chance to honour those who did, and an education for those who live so freely today because of this generational struggle.
The interview footage has been donated to the London Metropolitan Archive for public and research access and as a record in perpetuity. NHST hopes to tell the stories in a feature film and other arts and educational projects.