When supporters of Philadelphia FIGHT come together next month for the local HIV/AIDS service organization’s annual fundraising gala, they’ll do more than reflect on the agency’s good work.
This time, they’re also going to remember what — and whom — they’re fighting for.
FIGHT will host the We Remember Gala from 6-8:30 p.m. Dec. 2 at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts’ Hamilton Building, 128 N. Broad St., to raise money for its Jonathan Lax Immune Disorders Treatment Center, which provides primary-care services to the HIV/AIDS community.
Although the agency, which is entering its 20th year of operation, has staged a gala for the Lax Center since its inception in 1997, this year it returns to its roots to remember AIDS victims and raise public consciousness about the disease’s continuing scourge.
“HIV is still going on in 2009,” said Mark Seaman, FIGHT director of development. “I think people tend to forget this, especially those in the younger generations who are in their 20s and 30s and who may not have suffered as great a loss as people in older generations. Thankfully, people are now living longer and healthier, but I think everyone needs to be reminded that this is still having an impact.”
Added Jane Shull, FIGHT executive director, “We’ve been dealing with this epidemic for many, many years, and I think people do forget how far we’ve come. We thought that this would be a way of reminding people of that, as well as of all those that we’ve lost. We want to show how far we’ve come but at the same time talk about why we need to continue all the services that we have so other people can continue to benefit from them.”
During the event, FIGHT will display panels of the AIDS Memorial Quilt that commemorate those killed by the disease.
The panels are on loan from AIDS Fund, which had hoped to feature them at this year’s AIDS Walk but couldn’t due to rain.
FIGHT will also present its annual Jonathan Lax Award to John S. James, founder and publisher of AIDS Treatment News.
“ATN is a pretty interesting publication that’s been out since the late ’80s and provides a medical perspective on HIV to people who are living with HIV,” Seaman said. “It helps to get them to understand some of the science behind it and the research going on, so it’s not geared toward medical providers but the patients, which is really important.”
Shull said James has had a “remarkable career,” one she said is worthy of the Lax Award and recognition from the entire HIV/AIDS community.
“He was one of the first activists to come forward in the early stages of the AIDS epidemic,” she said. “What was striking about AIDS Treatment News from its very beginning was how comprehensive and accurate it was, even at a time when people didn’t know too much. That was a time before the crash course in science really happened for a lot of AIDS activists, and John was always so accurate and so clear with his information. He’s kept that up for more than 20 years and is still spending all of his time making sure people have the best information possible.”
The gala will also feature a silent auction, live music and appearances by Miss Philadelphia Ryann Richardson and a City Hall politico.
Seaman said the organization is expecting about 200 guests and hoping to raise $50,000.
For more information or to purchase tickets, call (215) 985-4448.