AIDS Advocacy Night.
Date: October 21, 2017
Time: 6:00 pm - 10:00 pm
Location: 3485 University Ave, Riverside, CA 92501
AIDS Advocacy Night began as an immersive cultural event to educate community on the HIV/AIDS epidemic, showcase the resiliency of people living with HIV, and charge community to take control of their sexual health. We invited representatives from communities most affected by HIV/AIDS - women, LGBT people of color, marginalized youth - and encouraged them to share their struggles through dance, theater performances, spoken word poetry and more. From this effort emerged a unique, intimate space for inter-generational storytelling where attendees could listen to first-hand narratives of resiliency, empowerment, and triumph over stigma. This year with the support of local businesses and philanthropists, we’re hosting a gala event to raise $50,000 to further our investment in community and fight for the prevention and elimination of HIV/AIDS.
In the onset of the AIDS epidemic in the early 1980s, receiving an HIV diagnosis was most often a death sentence. Very little was known about the virus apart from the from the fact that gay men were initially the most impacted, leading to the initial naming of the diseases “gay-related immune deficiency”. This created a fear of casual contact with those living with HIV and a lasting stigmatization that the syndrome was a gay disease — today we know this is furthest from the truth. It wasn’t until 1983 that researchers realized that HIV could be transmitted through heterosexual sex.
In the following decade, scientific advancements helped to lead the fight against HIV. Several AIDS-specific organizations including the San Francisco AIDS Foundation were established. The CDC coined the term ‘AIDS’ (acquired immune deficiency syndrome) and confirmed all methods of transmission, dispelling the misnomer of transmission by casual contact (air, water, surfaces). The FDA licensed the first commercial blood test to detect HIV antibodies; and the US began screening the national blood supply. In March of 1987, the FDA approved the first antiretroviral drug, zidovudine, as treatment for HIV.
Clinical and educational advances have helped to inform the public about HIV and show that anyone can be affected. Professional basketball player, Magic Johnson, announced that he had HIV and retired, aiming to educate youth about the virus. Ryan White, a teenager from Indiana who contracted AIDS through contaminated blood to treat his hemophilia was banned from school as a result of his illness. Ryan became a national advocate for AIDS research and awareness, and shortly after his death at 18 years old, the Ryan White Care Act was passed allocating federal funding as a ‘payer of last resort’ for treatment of HIV/AIDS.
Today modern medicine allows people living with HIV to live long, happy lives and achieve viral suppression through antiretroviral therapy; and at-risk persons can significantly lower their risk through biomedical interventions such as Pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP).
These advancements came with the cost of thousands of lives and the sacrifices of countless activists. AIDS Advocacy Night is a gala event to reflect on more than 3 decades of progress, recognize key activists, and look to the future as we advocate for the prevention and elimination of HIV/AIDS through education and investment in community.