One of the biggest charity events of the world is the «Life Ball» , held every spring in Vienna. It brings awareness to HIV/AIDS, where AIDS activists and celebrities become a voice to those with the disease, sharing with us how we can help. Behind the scenes, people volunteer their time and effort to organize and take part in this event while companies donate money in support of the Life Ball and AIDS research.
Traditionally, the Life Ball festival took place on the square in front of the Vienna City Hall. In this year the festival celebrated 25th birthday. The Vienna Ball of Life is the largest charity event in Europe supporting people with HIV+ status, as well as a powerful antiviral campaign. All funds raised as part of the event are sent to the aid fund “LIFE +” (formerly AIDS LIFE), founded in 1992. LIFE + supports organizations that help people with HIV infection: its team, which is responsible for distributing funds, individually reviews each treatment. In addition, the goal of LIFE + programs is to raise public awareness of the disease.
This year it was all about Sound of Music – the legendary movie released in 1965. The theme was ideal because the movie talks to us about freedom and acceptance in the world.
This means that movie style element is the center of the Life Ball’s festivities and allows individuals to have the opportunity to dress ”to the nines” in the most extravagant and glamorous outfits one can imagine. This extended to the red carpet and to the guests of the event. The more extravagant your outfit, the better.
This year’s international guests were e.g. Adrian Brody, Paris Jackson, Charlize Theron, Caitlyn Jenner, Kelly Osbourne, Brad Goreski, Rufus Wainwright, Patti LaBelle, Gus Kenworthy, Kim Petras, Betty Who, Alcazar, Ian Bohen, JR Borne, Michiel Huisman, Gilles Marini, Katee Sackhoff, Cindy Bruna, Carmen Carrera, Alain Fabien Delon, Nats Getty, Gigi Gorgeous, Erika Jayne, Jonas Kaufmann, Yasmine Petty, Victoria Swarovski and Debra Shaw.
Austrian singer and drag artist Conchita Wurst was borderline unrecognizable on the red carpet with platinum blond extensions and a beard. The audience was also amazed to see Conchita as the lead character in the image of Maria, the main character of movie “The Sound of Music” woven according to the themes of human rights awareness and HIV and LGBT rights.
One of the main messages of the festival is not only a bright show program with first-rate stars, but also enlightenment on the topic of HIV and the fight against HIV desidency. AIDS denialism – a belief that HIV doesn’t exist or that HIV doesn’t acquire AIDS – as a movement is a serious challenge for public health. The main strategy to prevent HIV denialism among newly diagnosed people with HIV is to give them as much information about HIV and AIDS as possible.
But why people deny the problem? Most do it because because they think about being condemned by society. Even now, the topic of HIV causes panic in many people. So many still do not know the difference between HIV and AIDS and are convinced that HIV will lead to death in any case. The more people have knowledge, the less they fall into the trap of misinformation. Life Ball proposed the tactics of prevention work with different group of people, first of all with newly diagnosed people as well as people who have doubts about HIV and could be easily influenced by HIV and AIDS denialists’ ideas.
Life Ball – this is not only a beautiful event with a colorful scenario. All who are coming here can do free AIDS tests. Increasing HIV testing coverage in all settings is vital for Europe to have a significant impact in reducing new infections. Accessible HIV testing and early detection remains a challenge in some parts of Europe. Approximately half of HIV diagnosis in 2017 were diagnosed at a late stage of infection. This is not only means that those diagnosed will be starting treatment later, but the risk of onward transmission increases. Offering rapid testing in all setting, medical (including indicator disease testing) and community based, is a proven strategy to increasing peoples’ awareness of their HIV status.
Photos: Patrick Florian, Daniel Gossmann, Andreas Rentz
Text: Julia Andreeva