World AIDS Day did not go unnoticed in El Salvador. Many gay, lesbian and straight organizations held actions to honor AIDS survivors and their families, and to advocate for more access to treatment. A candlelit procession honoring victims of the disease marched from El Salvador del Mundo to the heart of San Salvador on the evening of Friday December 1, culminating a full week of activities.
According to official statistics, 15,000 Salvadorans have tested positive for HIV. However, Otoniel Ramirez from the survivor advocacy group Atlacatl Association, points to UN data revealing that 50% of HIV positive cases go undetected in El Salvador . “If this is true,”
Ramirez told Diario Co-Latino, “then we have about 30,000 HIV carriers in our country. The goal is to prevent more infections and to ensure that HIV+ people aren’t discriminated against by society, the government or by business.”
Jaime Argueta of the National Organization of HIV+ People—Vida Nueva–, said, “I remember the 1990’s when doctors didn’t recommend that I get tested, they just treated the resulting infections that were destroying my immune system. Times have changed, but still more changes are necessary.”
HIV/AIDS advocacy groups have prioritized youth education on HIV infection, since young people are most likely to become infected. Catholic-based Cáritas has supported youth education on HIV in the eastern part of El Salvador and has organized an HIV+ self-help group in Suchitoto. World AIDS Day offered many groups an opportune moment to call on the Saca government to step-up funding for prevention education and to work more with civil society to tackle HIV/AIDS-related issues effectively.