Hundreds of Solomon Islanders turned out for the World AIDS Day event, particularly to hear the testimonies of Tahitian, Maire Bopp Dupont and two Solomon Island women living with the HIV virus.

Held at the National Referral Hospital grounds, the programme began with a parade from the Town Ground to the National hospital where speeches and awareness talks by various stakeholders were held.

A particular highlight had been the testimony of Ms. Maire Dupont, who had been living with the HIV virus for the past 13 years.

Tahitian born, Ms. Dupont is the Pacific Region's public face of HIV. She also heads the Pacific Island AIDS Foundation (PIAF). Ms. Dupont was diagnosed with the HIV virus when she was a 23 year old journalism graduate and like most infected Pacific women, Ms. Dupont contracted the virus through her then partner of three years.

Yesterday, she revealed the hardship of living with the virus in the early days particularly faced with stigma and discrimination, but today she said she has seen attitudes shifting in the Pacific region.

She said that her ability to overcome the stigma and discrimination "was because I have a supportive husband, who is HIV negative, who loves and cares for me, together with my supportive family and friends. I am currently on the Antiretroviral drug and had been so for the past ten years and I am healthy."

She stated that when she started going out with her husband, she revealed to him that she was HIV positive "but because of his love for me, he decided to marry me and support me, despite my status."

Ms. Dupont said that, three years ago, they decided to have a child and upon doctor's guidance and advice, they now have a beautiful three year old daughter 'Kapaira Orama' meaning 'Beautiful Vision'.

According to Ms. Dupont, "she will always be a miracle, a blessing and my beautiful vision." Little Kapaira is HIV negative and is indeed a beautiful miracle and a blessing.

Ms. Dupont stated that she is very proud to have been given the opportunity to raise awareness in the Solomon Islands and encouraged people to educate their children on the virus.

Ms. Dupont concluded by saying, "you have a beautiful country full of beautiful people, save it for the children."

Ms. Dupont then went on to the National Parliament house to talk to the Parliamentarians on HIV and AIDS.