Written by Jay Matthew
As the music started at the World AIDS Day event here in Fresno (held annually in Fresno's Historic Tower Theater), people were already beginning to stream in. The event opened with two songs from Fresno's Gay Men's Chorus—both were really funny gayed-up versions of Christmas songs, the second of which was called "Coming Out On Christmas," which got everyone in the crowed laughing and clapping. The show then moved on to the issuing of an award to Elaine Jimenez-Obeso for her involvement in the community; Elaine accepted the award with tears in her eyes.
Afterwards Dr. Naiel Nassar came on stage and lectured about some of the medical things that have been tried and tested to stop, and also help prevent, the spread of AIDS and HIV infection, but have failed in the past. It was quite informative and also very shocking to hear how close they have come to finding a cure and/or vaccine. But at the same time, they are still so far off from achieving this goal.
Following Dr. Nassar’s speech, the event took a different route and turned into a showcase of varied performances; not all of which where relating to AIDS, but were nonetheless very enjoyable. We got to see FSU's Los Danzentes de Aztlan, the Brix Mercer Band, Kitty Karryall, Christina Lacomb, and Shannon Price of Exotica. The most entertaining and eye opening of them all was the mother and daughter dance team, Stella and Tiffiny O, who performed an African dance about AIDS in Central Africa. The performance is about a woman who finds out that she has AIDS and her husband doesn't care. The only one there to lift the mother’s spirits up and show her that she still is alive is her daughter. I have a feeling that the song they danced to means a lot to Stella because she is a victim of AIDS and moved here from Egypt to learn more about it. Not only has Stella learned about AIDS since coming here, but now she is out there making a difference. Stella also received “The Volunteer” award that night for all of her contributions to Fresno County. The night ended with a candle light vigil outside of the theater, one last song from Christina Lacomb, and then the reading of names for those who have lost their battle with AIDS.
World AIDS Day is held every year on December 1st across the world. It all began in 1988 and served as an effort to strengthen global awareness and the challenges of the AIDS epidemic, which continues to spread across the world and affects everyone in all classes, races, genders, and sexualities. 1.2 million people in America are infected with HIV. In Fresno County alone there have been over 1,600 documented cases of AIDS, of which 865 of those people have died. The goal of Worlds AIDS Day 2008 is to make the promise—made by the United Nations in 2001 and 2006—of universal healthcare for HIV prevention, treatment, care, and support by 2010 into a reality, and to get the people of Fresno to take part in events pertaining to the awareness and prevention of AIDS in the community. The event was organized by a small group of people from various governmental and private organizations. World AIDS Day in Fresno has been held at the Tower Theater for the last 5 years, and has been going on for the last 20 years at varying locations across Fresno.
The World AIDS Day committee was comprised of the following people:
Jena Adams, Maria Baldovinos, Rachel Bowman, Erica Caudillo, Sam Chaparro, Stephanie Garcia, Toni Harrison, Kristin Haynes, Stella O, Jennifer Rincon, and Emily Rizzo
Centerforce, Fresno County Department of Public Health, Planned Parenthood Mar Monte, Rachel's Projects, and WestCare
If you would like to donate money to the next World AIDS Day event here in Fresno, it would be very much appreciated and needed; you can contact Stephanie Garcia at (559) 445-3434 or via e-mail at: StephanieGarcia@co.fresno.ca.us