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The Life Ball 2017 – Know your status!

by Elena Schöber

After a year of a creative pause, the 24th Life Ball is taking place again in Vienna this year. Since 1993, the Life ball, which is hosted in favour of HIV and AIDS sufferers, is one of the biggest charity events in the world. This year, the Life Ball takes place in Vienna’s town hall on the 10th June.

How it all started…

The Life Ball’s face and founder is Gery Keszler, who established the charitable association Aids Life in 1992. The non-profit organisation supports people who suffer from HIV or AIDS infection and set itself the goal to inform society about the dangers of HIV and AIDS and sensitize them towards the illness.

The first Life Ball took place in 1993, by that time it was only a small, originated from the gay scene, event in Vienna. But even then, Keszler managed to convince the city administration of his project and won them as a partner. Two more sponsors helped to make the ball happen. The proceeds that benefit the association Aids Life came up to 1.100.000 Austrian Schillings (about 80.000 Euro). In the second year, the proceeds from donations, sponsoring, and entry fees could already be doubled. This development can be watched until today. With a rising media attention and visitor numbers every year, the proceeds could be increased even further in the past years.

After the Vienna’s town hall’s renovation in 1999, the first opening show on the town hall’s square took place in 2000. For the first time, the show was freely accessible to the public. That year a record sum of donations could be gathered – 10.000.000 Austrian Schillings. In the following years, Keszler started cooperating with various international AIDS charity organisations, e.g. the Elton John Aids Foundation (EJAF), the Foundation for Aids Research (amfAR) by Elisabeth Taylor and the UNAIDS. Elton John, Sharon Stone, Whoopi Goldberg, Bill Clinton and Charlize Theron are only a few of many famous speakers who attended the Life Ball in the past decades. Additionally, numerous well-known fashion designers support the ball with organising a fashion show. These include, for example, Jean Paul Gautier, Roberto Cavalli, Calvin Klein and Donatella Versage. Presented are the clothes by, on the one hand popular models like Heidi Klum, Naomi Campbell and Eva Padberg and on the other hand by famous national and international celebrities, e.g. Til Schweiger, Olivia Jones and Dolly Buster. In 2007, even the current minister of health, Andrea Kdolsky, performed on the catwalk.

This year is going to be a blast!

After the pause of one year, the Life Ball is taking place again this year. And a few innovations have been made. This year, the focus should go back from the glamorous event to the message of it. The core message of eradicating Aids and HIV lies at the heart of the ball. To be able to internationalize the association further, a new umbrella brand has been founded. Aids Life is now called Life Plus (LIFE+). Additionally, for the first time there is going to be an event for adolescents. A day after the main ball, the “Life Ball Junior” is taking place in Vienna’s town hall. A scavenger hunt is set up to teach young people more about HIV and Aids. The youth event is being held by LIFE+ in cooperation with Vienna’s School Council and the Ministry of Education and Health. According to Keszler, especially young people belittle the illness. The event is supposed to counteract those views.

The superordinate topic of this year’s ball is “Know your status”. Keszler justifies the focus on the immune status with that only a very early diagnosis of HIV/Aids can assure the reduction of the infection rate. Because according to the World Health Organisation (WHO) are 36,7 Million people are infected with the virus but only about half of them even know about it. In 2015, there have been 2,1 Million new infections worldwide. That must change!

To achieve a social change and (finally!) free AIDS from being a taboo subject, the inhibitions against getting tested have to be lowered. Therefore there will be anonymous, free tests available at the event. The facebook campaign “Know your status” started already in December 2016 and will go on for one year. Famous celebrities like Dita von Teese and Conchita Wurst lead by example and have already been tested.

How to get tickets for the Life Ball 2017

On the basis of the limited space in Vienna’s town hall, there are (only) 3780 tickets available for purchase. To ensure that everyone has the same chances to get a ticket, they are being raffled. The preregistration for the sought-after tickets starts at the end of March. In general, everyone is able to get up to two tickets per person. The raffle takes place in early April. We keep our fingers crossed for you!

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