By Mondale Smith
An estimated 1.5% of the general population in Guyana is infected with the Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV), according to statistics, and as the local fight against its spread continues on the medical front, last
evening scores of persons associated with the Arts and other enthusiasts, flocked to the National Cultural Centre for the annual staging of ‘The Flame and the Ribbon’.
The Artistes in Direct Support’s 23rd staging of the event is part of a legacy from the non-Governmental organization started by the late actor extraordinaire Keith Andre Sobryan to fight for people living with and affected by HIV/Aids in Guyana.
Last night’s staging was hosted 15 years since his passing. The former Queen’s College alumnus was also founder member of the network of Guyanese Living with HIV/ AIDS while the other founder members who have kept the flame burning are theatre colleagues Margaret Lawrence and current head Desiree Edghill.
The evening’s proceedings began with the lighting of candles by participants and patrons alike representing the nation’s awareness of the reality of persons living with and or affected by HIV/Aids locally, spanning all ethnicities.
Patrons were then treated to a flashback of the artistic abilities from Desiree Edghill who nostalgically remembered Miss Lottie, a feisty character which the late Sobryan was celebrated for.
Reflections were also done by Director of the Theatre Company Ron Robinson followed by a Dance tribute to Sobryan by Oral Welshman, Artistic director of the Laramade Musical theatre. It also featured two more inspirational presentations from Mikhail Rampersaud and reigning Mr. Guyana International Paul Charles and from the National Dance Company focused on the song ‘Imagine’ and in tribute to cancer survivors and supporters.
While the stage presentation sought to entertain, it was also focused on educative presentations such as a stage presentation of the casual affair “to you” from Lorna Loretha Smith with excerpts from the much beloved “One of our sons is missing” theatre drama, mirroring the realities of choices and consequences.
Most informative were presentations from Dr. Karen Boyle, Country Director Cicatelli Associates Inc (CAI) Guyana., Dereck Springer Director of PANCAP Coordinating Unit and Dr Martin Odiit, Country Director of UNAIDS.
They spoke about the realities of stigma and discrimination which continue to be some of the barriers in the fight against HIV, which is a negative in the area of care and treatment.
Like Director of the National AIDS Programme Secretariat, (NAPS) Dr. Shanti Singh, the belief was expressed that there is noted achievement in tackling HIV/AIDS. However despite some progress being made locally, concerns abound regarding stigma and discrimination despite belief that progress has also been made in this regard, according to 2014 surveys.
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