LGBT activist calls for national AIDS memorial

Tonie Walsh – Image: Flickr

LGBT activist, Tonie Walsh, has called on the Irish Government to fund an Irish AIDS Memorial, to honour those who have died from AIDS in Ireland, as well as their caregivers and activists.

Mr Walsh will outline his vision at this week’s HIV Ireland National Conference on HIV and Stigma. The conference, which marks the 30th anniversary of HIV Ireland, will take place at Smock Alley Theatre in Dublin on Thursday, 28th September 2017.

Speaking ahead of the conference, Mr Walsh said:

“More than 35 million people have died from AIDS worldwide, and unfortunately, people are still dying of AIDS. I am calling on the Government to support a permanent and prominent national AIDS memorial, to remember those who have died, but also to acknowledge those who have worked to improve their lives.

“A place of memory is so important for the mobilisation of a community and of our society, as memorialising our loss and grief allows us to better value and share the coping mechanisms and survival strategies of a previous generation. In seeking a national AIDS memorial, I look to cities such as Toronto, New York, and Durban, which all have visually striking memorials.”

He added:

“I would like to see a consultation process of stakeholders in civil society regarding the design, procurement and siting of the monument. With due process, and the goodwill of Government and the public sector, I would hope this physical totem could become a reality within the next five years.”

Mr Walsh, who is the curator of Irish Queer Archive, is also seeking the digitisation and open access of archives of HIV Ireland, GAY Health Action, and HIV/ AIDS-related documents, held in the collections of the Irish Queer Archive at the National Library of Ireland. A selection of archive material will be on display at the conference on Thursday.

Supporting the call for a national AIDS memorial, Executive Director of HIV Ireland, Niall Mulligan said:

“Nearly 8,000 people in Ireland have been diagnosed with HIV since the early 1980s, and while improvements in treatment have greatly enhanced people’s life expectancy and their quality of life, significant stigma still exists around being HIV positive. A recent survey we conducted among people living with HIV in Ireland found more than half of those polled had not disclosed their HIV status at some point as they were afraid they would be discriminated against.

“A national AIDS memorial would recognise the lives lost, the grief and sorrow of those left behind, as well as acting as a reminder that there is still work to do to eliminate new HIV infections in Ireland, and combatting HIV-related stigma and discrimination.”

The one-day conference will explore the history of HIV, stigma and social inclusion in addiction, homelessness, sex work, the LGBT community, the migrant community, and people living with HIV in Ireland since 1987. The findings of the ‘HIV in Ireland 2017’ survey will also be launched.

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