UNAIDS joins 20th Anniversary Life Ball in Vienna

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UNAIDS joins 20th Anniversary Life Ball in Vienna

21 May 2012

UNAIDS Deputy Executive Director, Management and External Relations Jan Beagle giving her opening remarks at the AIDS Solidarity Gala.
Credit: Gettyimages

Europe’s biggest AIDS charity event was held on 19 May in the Austrian city of Vienna. Organized by AIDS LIFE, the Life Ball 2012 brought together celebrities and influential leaders in the global AIDS response to celebrate the 20th anniversary of what has become one of the largest AIDS fundraising events worldwide since it was first held in 1993.

This year’s Life Ball was held under the theme “Fight the Flames of Ignorance”. The theme provides the conclusion to the four-year cycle of elements that began in 2009 with water and was aimed at contributing to the removal of the taboos surrounding AIDS in society.

The AIDS Solidarity Gala, a high-level dinner preceding the Life Ball opening ceremony, was organized under the patronage of the President of the Republic of Austria Heinz Fischer and co-hosted by UNAIDS for the second consecutive year. Former United States President Bill Clinton, UNAIDS Deputy Executive Director, Management and External Relations Jan Beagle, amfAR spokesperson Milla Jovovich, actor Sean Penn and art collector Francesca Habsburg also participated in the event.

Proceeds from the gala will be used, in part, to support the work of UNAIDS in the Russian Federation. Donations will be dedicated to improve the lives of children orphaned by AIDS and families affected by HIV as well as to strengthen HIV prevention among women of childbearing age.  

The epidemic is still a magnifier for social injustice. Stigma and discrimination, criminalization of HIV, gender inequity and numerous forms of human rights violations continue to fuel new HIV infections and block people from accessing lifesaving treatment

UNAIDS Deputy Executive Director, Management and External Relations Jan Beagle

In her opening remarks Ms Beagle noted that, despite progress made in the global AIDS response, the AIDS epidemic is not over. “The epidemic is still a magnifier for social injustice. Stigma and discrimination, criminalization of HIV, gender inequity and numerous forms of human rights violations continue to fuel new HIV infections and block people from accessing lifesaving treatment,” said Ms Beagle.

This is relevant to the epidemic in Eastern Europe and Central Asianoted Ms Beagle since unlike most other regions, AIDS-related deaths continue to rise. “I am grateful to AIDS LIFE for being such a strong, committed supporter of UNAIDS work in this region. With your help, we will break the trajectory of HIV in Eastern Europe and Central Asia and achieve the same success we are seeing in Africa and the rest of the world” added Ms Beagle.

President Clinton noted in his statement that "The UN has a goal of making sure children are born free of HIV in the first place. Resources raised at the Gala for the Clinton Foundation will be used in Zambia and Uganda to prevent mothers to pass HIV to their children."

Every year, the Life Ball recognizes the work and dedication of pioneers in the AIDS response through the “Crystal of Hope” award. Supermodel Naomi Campbell and Hollywood actor Antonio Banderas presented this year’s award of EUR 100 000 to Jackie Branfield, founder of “Operation Bobbi Bear”—a project dedicated to respond to child abuse and sexual crimes in South Africa.

Nearly 40 000 people and famous celebrities have come out in support of the AIDS response at this year’s Life Ball. The charity event, organized by AIDS LIFE, raised over  US$ 2,3 million last year for AIDS programmes worldwide through partnerships with amfAR, the William J. Clinton Foundation, MTV Staying Alive Foundation, and UNAIDS.