State of the disease, beneficiaries, events to “Fight, Fund, Educate”

Pssst! It’s not over ’til it’s over. And it’s not over.

“The virus” was first announced in France in January 1983. Washington D.C. picked up the news in April 1984. Nearly 30 years later, in the United States alone, over 56,000 new cases of HIV/AIDS are reported each year. Still.

With a swiftness that imitates the spread of the disease itself, AIDS became enmeshed in the fabric of our society. As people watched friends and family members cut down in the prime of their lives, many tried to make sense of the scourge by channeling their pain into ways to help. A small group of locals founded the Telluride AIDS Benefit in 1994 because they wanted to help a friend with his costly medical expenses.

Robert Presley was one-of-a-kind, a kooky creative genius and local enfant terrible. His canvas was his fabrics, which he dyed, slashed and frayed to coax improbable materials into provocative designs. Presley died from complications due to HIV/AIDS in August 1997.

In its first year, the nascent Telluride AIDS Benefit netted about $10,000, which seemed like a fortune at the time. At Presley’s request, the money went directly to the Western Colorado AIDS Project, WestCAP, a community-based referral and educational provider which assists HIV-infected individuals and families across over 20 counties of Western Colorado. It was his wish to keep WestCAP financially healthy so WestCAP could continue to help victims of HIV/AIDS like himself.

WestCAP remains TAB’s primary beneficiary. Another is the Children’s Hospital HIV Program (CHIP) in Denver, a clinic within a hospital dedicated to providing children with the HIV infection with family-centered, state-of-the art care. (Denver is one of the top ten children’s hospitals in the country.) Over the years, TAB added other beneficiaries. The full list now includes Brother Jeff’s Health Initiative, a Denver-based nonprofit for state-wide outreach to minorities. African partners include orphanages in Manzini, Swaziland, and Addis Abada, Ethiopia.

Here are the specifics on how TAB funds were distributed last year:

61,000 – WestCAP
$26,000 – CHIP
$8K – Manzini Youth Care, Swaziland, Africa
$5K – Ethiopian Family Fund, Africa
$37,000 – Brother Jeff’s Health Initiative, Denver

TOTAL= $137,000

The Telluride AIDS Benefit’s gala (and sold-out) fashion spectacular and its art auction, orchestrated by Baerbel Hacke of the Telluride Gallery of Fine Art, are both fitting tributes to Robert Presley’s memory, but there are other activities throughout the weeks rolling up to the Big Events starting Thursday, February 23, with the Student Fashion Show. Below is a list:

TAB Fashion Week event schedule:

Student Show: Telluride Middle School/High School,Thursday February 23, 6 p.m.
Sneak peek of gala fashion show: Telluride Conference Center, Mountain Village, Thursday, March 1, Doors  7p.m.
Art Auction: Sheridan Opera House, Friday, March 2, Bidding opens at 12 noon, Reception 6-10p.m.
Free Testing:  Telluride Medical Center, Saturday, March 3rd
Gala Fashion Show: Telluride Conference Center, Mountain Village, Saturday, March 3, Doors 7p.m.
After (gala) Party: Llama, Saturday. March 3, 10:30 p.m.
Trunk Sale: Sheridan Opera House, Monday, March 5, 11a.m.- 5p.m.

And by special arrangement with Dr. David Homer, free year-round testing at Telluride Family Practice.

Ron Gilmer is affectionately known as the Grand Poobah of the Telluride AIDS Benefit – but we mean that in a good way. He is the polar opposite of the haughty and self-important character in Gilbert and Sullivan’s “The Mikado” (1885), the source of the term. Gilmer was Presley’s partner and a passionate AIDS activist. The following is his letter to potential sponsors, with more information about TAB and ways you can help fight the pandemic from the Front Range and Western Slope all the way to Africa:

“HIV/AIDS persists as a world epidemic and remains an unsolvable problem with few solutions on the horizon. During the economic downturn of the past several years, what few government programs are available for AIDS services have been even more drastically cut and further cuts are imminent, this is even more evident in rural areas that are losing out to the urban centers for available funds. AIDS and a poor economy is a terrible match. There is nothing nice about AIDS, prevention programs need to be honest, and scary to have any effect; a hard sale in a time when the public is exhausted from 28 years of hearing about this disease. Against these obstacles, we continue to “Fight, Fund and Educate for a brighter future”, our ongoing theme for the Telluride AIDS Benefit (TAB).  The very generous support you have shown in the past has enabled TAB to continue giving vital aid to our beneficiaries.

“Over 56,000 new cases of HIV/AIDS are reported every year in the US. Stigma and lack of education about AIDS are still the major barriers to getting people tested and into care, these issues need realistic attention, and until then, the AIDS Benefit is a very necessary cause and worthy of the continued proud support by our community.

“Our theme is inspired by our continuing student mentoring programs teaching groups of students to be peer educators on AIDS issues. TAB also offers year round free HIV testing throughout the Telluride workforce region. Free state sponsored HIV testing is not available in most states, including Colorado, our local program has been very successful, and we are working to expand this program to improve our regions’ quality of life. We also support the Western Colorado AIDS Project, for client care and education in the western 22 counties of Colorado, Denver Children’s Hospital Immunodeficiency Program, (CHIP), Brother Jeff’s Health Initiative for state wide outreach to minorities in Colorado that are disproportionately affected by HIV/AIDS. Our African projects include direct involvement in orphanages in Manzini, Swaziland and Addis Ababa, Ethiopia for care of orphans left by the AIDS devastation.

“TAB appreciates your interest and looks forward to your involvement this year at any level. You are also welcome to designate a recipient for your gift.  All TAB’s sponsors gain recognition at venues throughout the event week Feb 25th to March 3rd and are featured on our sponsor list at our website: www.aidsbenefit.org.

“If you have any questions you would like to discuss, please feel free to contact us. Thanks again for considering support for 2012 in our fight against AIDS. It’s important!

“Thank you again for your patronage.

Telluride Aids Benefit, P.O. Box 3819, Telluride, CO 81435   Tax ID 501c3# 84-1553698″

No Comments

Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.