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A personal confluence of empathy

- By Refilwe Mabula

Wits held the annual International HIV/AIDS Candlelight Memorial on 15 May 2015, using the opportunity to create awareness of other pertinent issues in South Africa and on the continent which call for solidarity and unity.

The global theme for this year’s candlelight memorial, which is a day-long event at Wits, is Supporting the Future, aimed at calling people to unite and demand a more sustainable HIV/AIDS response. The theme is particularly relevant to the scourge of xenophobic violence which engulfed the country recently amongst other forms of social injustices and discrimination.

Programme Director for the Counselling and Careers Development Unit (CCDU) Vinoba Krishna says that this year’s Candlelight Memorial is aimed at galvanising society and making them search deeper into their humanity.

“We all have problems, personal challenges and tragedies. It is a personal reflection space for people to think about what they are going through and is a thinking process of their own experiences. It is a process of remembering lost and loved ones,” says Krishna.

Speaking in accord to this year’s theme, Wits Vice-Chancellor and Principal Professor Adam Habib alluded to the issue of child headed households as one of the aftermaths of the HIV/AIDS pandemic where children are left orphaned after losing their parents or guardians to the disease. He appealed to staff members and students to offer a hand of support to those children.

“We have to collectively come together and help these people. We need to unite against the disease. It is about hope, it is about the future,” said Habib.

One of the messages written on the remembrance board by staff and students to show empathy and support read: “To all lesbians and gays who wanted to fit in and ended up being infected, be proud of who and what you are”. Another read: “Every cloud has a silver lining”.

Wits Dean of Student Affairs Dr Pamela Dube thanked the CCDU for hosting the memorial and those who attended for showing their support.

Beautiful renditions of Nkosi Sikelel’ iAfrika were sung by the Wits cleaning staff choir as a plea for solidarity towards the global pandemic.