World AIDS Day 2016

December 1, 2016, was a day to remember. Weeks and weeks of planning, long days and nights, hundreds upon hundreds of emails and phone calls, all in preparation for December 1, 2016 – World AIDS Day.

We began planning the annual event that J-FLAG hosts for World AIDS Day in mid-October. It was set to be a high-level breakfast forum that asked 200 people from various personal and professional backgrounds to come together under the theme “Celebrating the Gains, Meeting the Challenges.” Attendees included representatives from government, civil society organizations, religious affiliations, academia, media and more. The program featured notable individuals such as Jamaican Minister of Health Dr. Christopher Tufton, USAID Jamaica Mission Director Maura Barry Boyle, UNAIDS Jamaica Officer-in-charge Dr. Nkhensani Mathabathe and Director of the Division of Global HIV and TB (DGHT) at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Dr. Shannon Hader. It was truly amazing to see so many passionate and hard-working individuals involved in the national HIV response in Jamaica showing their support on such an important day.

World AIDS Day Breakfast Forum Invitation

For me, World AIDS Day 2016 is about more than just the event itself. You see, I had a hand in many stages of the planning. My tasks included designing and sending out the save the dates, sending out the formal invitations, tracking the RSVPs and creating the guest list and arranging volunteers for the event. This may not seem like much, but let me tell you, it was a LOT of work. When the big day finally arrived, I could hardly contain my excitement! Every staff member at J-FLAG had been working tirelessly to ensure the event was a success and finally all their hard work was about to come to fruition.

I arrived at the location of the event sometime around 6 a.m. It was my responsibility to supervise the amazing volunteers that had agreed to come help out with greeting, registration of guests, seating and many other tasks. Clipboard in hand, I waited patiently for guests to begin arriving, hoping that everything would go smoothly. Just as is the case with any event, there were a few small mishaps. I’m sure my stress levels would have blown off the charts had it not been for the incredible volunteers who handled every confusing request or idea I threw at them with ease. All in all, the event was a huge success and definitely an experience I will remember forever.

Jamaican Minister of Health Dr. Christopher Tufton (left) alongside J-FLAG Executive Director Dane Lewis (right)

UNAIDS Jamaica Officer-in-charge Dr. Nkhensani Mathabathe delivering a speech at the event

A few of the members of the outstanding team of volunteers at the event

A few of the members of the outstanding team of volunteers at the event

In typical Jamaican fashion, the World AIDS Day events were far from over. We hurried home from the event to quickly change and head to the meeting place for a road march being organized by the National Family Planning Board – Sexual Health Agency of Jamaica (NFPB-SHA). Once again, this was an outstanding example of the remarkable and admirable way that the organizations working in the sexual health and/or human rights field in Jamaica support each other. We proudly marched alongside members of organizations including but not limited to Jamaica Network of Seropositives (JN+), Eve for Life, Caribbean Vulnerable Communities Coalition (CVC) and UNICEF Jamaica. NOT TO MENTION, NFPB had organized two parade float-like buses, a marching band, students and flash mob-style dancers to turn the road march into an all-out parade. We marched proudly through downtown Kingston and ended at St. William Grant Park, where a health fair providing free HIV and Syphilis tests, family planning services and concert had been planned.

The NFPB-SHA Road March kicking off towards Downtown Kingston

Between the breakfast forum and the road march, World AIDS Day 2016 will undoubtedly remain one of my fondest memories of my time spent here in Jamaica. To see all the photos from the breakfast forum click here: goo.gl/zrtI3w and the road march click here: goo.gl/sxAPqD.

That’s all for now! Things are about to get very busy with exciting new projects here at J-FLAG so stay tuned!

xx Christine

Christine Kinoshita

Christine Kinoshita

Christine was born and raised in Toronto, Ontario. She recently graduated from McGill University in Montreal with a Bachelor of Arts in International Development.
Christine Kinoshita

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About Christine Kinoshita

Christine was born and raised in Toronto, Ontario. She recently graduated from McGill University in Montreal with a Bachelor of Arts in International Development.
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