"Jeanne Beker! Jeanne Beker! I love you and want a picture with you!," I shouted as I made my way through the crowd like a paparazzo. This photo captures one moment of this year's Fashion Cares that made it an evening to remember.
I went to my first Fashion Cares 15 years ago, when I still lived in Calgary -- the first of my yearly pilgrimages to Toronto. In the early days, fashion, entertainment and dancing late into the night left one exhausted, amazed and wanting more the next year. Jeanne Beker, long-time host of Fashion Television, was a stalwart HIV/AIDS supporter. In times when people were dying daily from AIDS and the cause was not a popular one, it was celebs like Beker who made living with HIV just a bit more acceptable and gave people with HIV such as myself a feeling of being OK with the world.
I now live in Toronto and was saddened when the event fizzled in 2007 due to a combination of factors, including a change in venue and bad weather. That night we all froze in the cold rainy weather in Toronto's Distillery District. But this past September Fashion Cares came back in all its glory and lived up to its billing as "a night of glitter and light."
The guest list was a who's who of Canadian fashion, entertainment and business. Fashionistas and corporate executives rubbed shoulders with drag queens, people living with HIV, their partners and allies. And headlining was Sir Elton John himself. The entire evening buzzed with energy. What an amazing opportunity to celebrate life, keep people engaged and keep HIV at the forefront of people's minds!
The fact that this 25th Fashion Cares was the last makes this a sad turning point in the history of the AIDS movement. Keeping AIDS in the minds of Canadians is difficult enough and without events like this one, finding creative ways to raise awareness and funds will be a more challenging job for us all.
Brian Huskins is a strategic planning/communications consultant who has been living with HIV since 1990. Brian was recently awarded a Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal for excellence in the field of HIV/AIDS in Canada.