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Giant human red ribbon formed in Manila to observe World AIDS Day

(Xinhua)

09:40, December 05, 2011

MANILA, Dec. 4 (Xinhua) -- Despite continuous rain, thousands of students, clad in red shirt, from 19 universities and colleges in Metro Manila formed a giant human red ribbon on the grassland of 400-year-old University of Santo Tomas on Sunday to commemorate the first AIDS Sunday.

Representatives of HIV-positive communities, families and civil society also attended Sunday's activity, which was part of the world AIDS Day.

Addressing the opening ceremony, Gregorio Banaga, president of the Catholic Educational Association of the Philippines, one of the organizers, said, "We came here today to represent the theme of "Getting to Zero, Be true and Stay true".

He called on young people to become aware of the serious menace of HIV/AIDS, respect the sacredness of life, show love to their friends, families and neighbors, and reach out to members of families and society who may be at risk of the virus and offer them compassionate understanding and the support they need.

Also spoke at the ceremony was Jericho Paterno, a former migrant worker who became HIV positive seven years ago. He said, " I have realized that being HIV positive is a preventable and manageable condition, I can still live a normal and productive life like others. Right now I am actively involved in the Pinoy Plus Association, a care and support group of people living with HIV and AIDS. It helps me a lot to cheer up my life. There is also opportunity for me despite of bing a HIV carrier.

Paterno added that the theme of the World AIDS Day is getting to zero of new infection, zero of AIDS-infected death and zero of discrimination. This is a challenge for us Filipinos. With the increasing number of HIV incidence, we should be united for the solution to stop the spread of HIV.

The ceremony came to its climax when the organizer and Paterno set free 19 giant red balloons hung at the platform, symbolizing students of the 19 universities to join the global endeavor for " Getting to zero".

The Philippines is struggling to deal with a worsening HIV-AIDS problem, with shortage of funds being spent on reversing a steady rise in infection rates. According to the UNAIDA report, the global trend showed that the number of HIV cases in 33 countries have either decreased or have stabilized between 2001 and 2009, but the Philippines and six other countries showed an increase of more than 25 percent reported cases.

The Philippine HIV/AIDS registry showed that from January 1984 to October 2011, a total of 7,884 cases have been recorded, 937 of them had progressed into AIDS, while 339 had died. In October this year, the number of new HIV/AIDS cases marked 200, 92 percent higher than 104 cases in October 2010.


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