The International AIDS Candlelight Memorial, coordinated by the Global Network of People living with HIV (GNP+), is one of the world’s oldest and largest grassroots mobilization campaigns for HIV awareness in the world. Started in 1983, the International AIDS Candlelight Memorial takes place every third Sunday in May and is led by a coalition of community organizations in many countries.
The Candlelight Memorial serves as a community mobilization campaign to raise social consciousness about HIV and AIDS. With 38 million people living with HIV today, the International AIDS Candlelight Memorial serves as an important intervention for global solidarity, breaking down barriers of stigma and discrimination and giving hope to new generations.
Due to extraordinary situation caused by the coronavirus outbreak, the Union of people living with HIV in Serbia held the Memorial on Saturday 30 May. The community members, friends, civil society activists and health institution representatives gathered in the premises of the organisation Philanthropy. We sent our thoughts and prayers to those who died of AIDS, lighted candles over the large red ribbon sign and released red balloons with messages of support for those who live with HIV.
Philanthropy prepared packages with food and hygienic materials for PLHIV in hard living conditions. Priority was given to students, unemployed, people with disability, those with severe medical problems and pensioners with monthly pensions lower than 30.000 RSD (approximately 250 EUR).
The Union of Organizations of Persons Living with HIV/AIDS in Serbia (USOP) hosted the international conference on Sustainable Services for PLHIV and HIV Prevention in Belgrade on November 28, 2018. This one-day conference supported by UNDP Programme in Serbia gathered 110 relevant stakeholders from Serbia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, and Montenegro in an attempt to move the PLHIV service agenda forward through co-thinking and cross-sectorial experience exchange.
The Conference Sustainable Services for PLHIV and HIV Prevention contributed an important piece to the puzzle of PLHIV’s health, social, economic, and overall well-being in Serbia and the region by opening up a dialogue on the cost of services for PLHIV. Through active interactions between practitioners in key sectors, public officials, service providers and service users, the conference shed a new light on prevention of HIV infection and, specifically the role of PLHIV organizations in community resilience building.
Participants agreed that investments in development of standards and services, training of service providers, piloting and testing should be respected, recognized and more readily considered by the welfare systems through urgent development of formal standards that will lead to effective service mainstreaming and access to regular service funding. In the meantime, project funding remains an interim solution but one that clearly threatens sustainability and quality of services.
The National Conference on Innovative Community Based Services for People Living with HIV and AIDS, held in Belgrade, Serbia on 1 December 2017, was also the final activity of two-year project “Towards standardization of community based social service provision for people living with HIV in Serbia”, implemented by the Union of Organizations of Serbia dealing with the protection of people living with HIV and AIDS (USOP) with partners: Žena plus, AID +, Centre AS, Sunce, Crvena linija, Stav + and Nova + (PLHIV associations from Belgrade, Novi Sad, Niš, Subotica and Pančevo). The project is part of the “European Union Support to an Inclusive Society” program, funded and implemented by the Delegation of the European Union to the Republic of Serbia in cooperation with the Ministry of Labor, Employment, Veterans’ Affairs and Social Affairs through the IPA Program (The Instrument for Pre-Accession Assistance).
The conference addressed the activities of both civil and government sectors in response to the HIV epidemic, especially when it comes to social care, health care and legal assistance to people living with HIV and AIDS (PLHIV), but also prevention and the possibility of stopping the spread of infection, as well as reducing stigma and discrimination against this population.
The services are the basic means of achieving the goals of social protection. The Law on Social Protection recognizes five groups of services for which the standards were developed by the project or are in phase of development. In addition to these, other community-based innovative services have been developed in the community to respond to a wide range of people’s needs. One of the innovative services is peer support service for people living with HIV and AIDS offered by activists living with HIV and AIDS.