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TPAN Gala: An Affair to Remember
by Emmanuel Garcia

This article shared 2084 times since Wed Sep 13, 2006
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In June, Test Positive Aware Network ( TPAN ) celebrated 19 years of providing HIV/AIDS services in Chicago. Like most 19-year-olds, the group certainly knows how to host a party. On Sept. 9, TPAN held its annual fundraising gala named Aware Affair: Seeing Red.

More than 450 guests gathered at the Crystal Ballroom at the Hyatt Regency Chicago. The community leaders, politicians, and supporters of the agency attending mingled in black tie and glittery dresses to partake in an evening filled with a mixture of humor, politics, and strong emotions about where we have been and where we are headed.

The gala was so titled in response to the lack of funding devoted to HIV Awareness. Executive Director Rick Bejlovec discussed why the organization is seeing red: 'It's been a pretty turbulent year in the local and national HIV arena … because of the stagnation that we've had and the narrow mindedness that we've been facing in our federal system. We are looking at our HIV organizations closing. We are looking at our programs, our infrastructure, and the safety net that we've built for the past 25 years collapsing and being dismantled and de-funded. Our current administration is working very hard to blur the line between church and state, and we are seeing massive funding cuts for people living with HIV. ... We are really seeing red because of invasive mandatory HIV testing and names recording for anyone testing HIV positive. We figure this is going to cause people to not get tested and, more importantly, people who do test positive to not get treatment, and that's not what our goal is, that is not what we are trying to do.'

The event's master of ceremonies, comedian Aaron Freeman, kept things on a lighter note, though at one point he pulled the microphone from 2006 honoree, Dr. Daniel S. Berger, as he gave his acceptance speech. TPAN also honored Christopher Brown and retiring State Rep. Larry McKeon ( opening gay and HIV-positive ) , who received a standing ovation.

The Luck Care Center was this year's recipient of the Visionary Award.

Guests dined to a rousing performance by Lea Delaria, who is the first openly gay comic to appear on network television. Delaria delighted guests with her performance of political standup and song. She referenced her censorship experience in Palms Springs, Calif., at a Desert Aids Association fundraiser, 'I started to talk about George W. Bush because I hate his ( explicative ) guts … I don't want to feel smarter than my president.' The crowd laughed and cheered. 'When I opened my mouth and started trashing the President of the United States, here in the United States in the land of freedom, they turned off my microphone and pulled me off the stage. What did I say that was so bad?'

Delaria quipped about the turn-around the community has made within the last few years. What are we coming to … we don't even know who we are anymore—a gay function, a gay performer, up on stage talking about our anger, our rights, and who we are and who we've always been, well we don't know who we are anymore,' she continued, 'because we've become this assimilized crazy group of people. We are lawyers, doctors. We want to have babies; we want to be able to adopt Asian children and name them Emily … what's happened to us? I miss the old days.'

Although the old days are not where TPAN as an organization wants to be, if the decrease in funding continues, it certainly will start to appear that way.

TPAN is vigorously challenging the current administration by continuing to provide services to those who are vulnerable. On a national level, TPAN is widely recognized for its publication of Positively Aware and Positively Aware en Espanol.

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This article shared 2084 times since Wed Sep 13, 2006
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