Even when things are black and white, there is a lot of living color behind the big picture. Such is the case with Aid for AIDS of Nevada’s (AFAN) 32nd Annual Black & White Party at Daylight Beach Club on Sept. 8. Guests are encouraged to dress in black and white attire, and this year’s theme, “Escape to Paradise,” will take attendees back in time to an ’80’s-inspired pool party complete with top entertainers, exciting silent auction items and photo ops. Plus, the pool will be open for swimming.
Returning host Norma Llyaman, “Empress of the ’80s,” will be joined by Strip headliner Miss Behave from The Miss Behave Game Show. Guests can dance the night away with music from DJ Axis and enjoy performances by the Tenors of Rock, Blue Man Group, Murray The Magician, David Goldrake Imaginarium, the Queens of Piranha Nightclub, East Side Riot and more. The casts of Penn & Teller, Chippendales and Sexxy will also make special appearances. Food will be provided by BRIO Tuscan Grille, Libertine Social, House of Blues, Hussong’s Mexican Cantina, Slice of Vegas, Four Seasons Hotel and Hamburger Mary’s.
“Every penny raised here, which benefits AFAN’s client service programs to help men, women and children living with HIV/AIDS in Southern Nevada, stays here,” says Antioco Carrillo, executive director of AFAN. “We do get some funding from the city, state and county, and some federal aid, but the rest comes from the generosity of the public. At last year’s event, nearly 2,500 guests from all walks of Las Vegas life raised more than $130,000 to benefit our clients. We are a grassroots organization and are not associated with any other organization. We are the largest and oldest AIDS organization in the state.”
Carrillo adds: “AFAN was founded in 1984 when there were no services, no treatment and a horrible taboo about the disease. AIDS was forefront in the news with terrible images of people who were sick and dying. They were denied housing and medical care, and gay bars were their only refuge. They were totally discriminated against. That’s when a lot of people in the community got together to start a fundraiser for a systematic way to provide those people with services, respect and fair treatment and to help them achieve a better life.”
Carrillo explains that the black-and-white theme of the annual event stems from that first fundraiser in which folks got together and brought generic canned goods to give to the ailing. Because they were generic brands, the most obvious thing on the cans was a black barcode against a white backdrop.
In the mid-’90s, better treatment protocols were developed, and people with AIDS are living longer. Still, Carrillo says 370–380 people are diagnosed with AIDS in Clark County every year. He notes that while the stigma of the disease has lessened somewhat, the fear is still there. AFAN provides mental health, nutrition and housing services that keep people in treatment, but he admits that he and his 16 employees and AFAN’s partners, The Wellness Center (the county clinic that specializes in HIV), Huntridge Clinic, AIDS Healthcare Foundation and Golden Rainbow still have a lot of work to do.
“AFAN averages 1,500 clients that we see on an annual basis multiple times a year,” Carrillo says. “But because AIDS is no longer at the forefront in the news, there is a sense of complacency. People think that AIDS is no longer a problem and that there is a cure, but there is not. There is only treatment. So, [people] are still doing dangerous behaviors such as having sex without a condom.
“And while treatment can reduce the ability of a person to transmit the disease, the disease was criminalized back in the ’80s, and the laws haven’t kept up,” he continues. “If someone doesn’t disclose that he or she is HIV-positive, that person can go to prison for 10 years and get a steep fine. Afterward, he or she is registered as a sex offender. As a result, it prevents people from getting tested, which is a struggle for us. It’s particularly prevalent with the generation in their 20s and 30s who weren’t around to see those images from the ’80s and ’90s. They think AIDS is no big deal.”
No organization is more up to the task than AFAN when it comes to working to change that perception.
The Black & White Party starts at 8:30 p.m. Tickets and VIP packages can be purchased at afanlv.org. Guests must be 21+ years old and are encouraged to wear as black and white. For those who want to dive into the festivities, the pool will be open for swimming. All ticket holders receive complimentary entry into Light Nightclub at Mandalay Bay after 11:30 p.m. Piranha Nightclub will host the official LGBT after-party beginning after 11:30 p.m.