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Life Ball champions zero new HIV infections in children

<p>Feature story</p>

May 27, 2013

The Life Ball 2013, Europe's biggest AIDS charity event, brought to the Austrian city of Vienna on 25 May celebrities and influential leaders in the global AIDS response to celebrate the 21st edition of one of the largest AIDS fundraising events worldwide. Organised by Gery Keszler in his capacity as chairman of the NGO AIDS LIFE, this year's Life Ball was held under the theme "1001 nights". All proceeds from this year's event will go towards reaching the international goal of eliminating new HIV infections in children and keeping their mothers alive.

During the star-studded evening high-profile guests included former United States President Bill Clinton, UNAIDS Goodwill Ambassador Aishwarya Rai Bachchan, Sir Elton John, singer Fergie representing amfAR, the Foundation for AIDS Research, Editor-in-chief of the Italian Vogue, Franca Sozzani, former Chairman and CEO of MTV Networks International, Bill Roedy, and fashion designer Roberto Cavalli who hosted this year's Life Ball fashion show.

The role of UNAIDS in achieving the global success against AIDS was highlighted by celebrities and global leaders at the gala dinner. "We can celebrate tonight the work of UNAIDS. A lot of the success and work achieved so far has been championed by UNAIDS, the Global Fund, the Elton John foundation and other partners," said President Clinton

At the international press conference before the grand opening UNAIDS Goodwill Ambassador Aishwarya Rai Bachchan stressed the need to join efforts to stop new HIV infections among children. "It is every mother's wish to have a healthy child and it is every woman's right to live a life with dignity and access to health services," said Ms Bachchan. "It is everybody's responsibility. In my role as UNAIDS International Goodwill Ambassador I will do my best but the media can play a huge role and I ask you to help me spread the message," added Ms Bachchan.

For the third year in a row UNAIDS co-hosted the AIDS Solidarity Gala, a dinner at the Hofburg Palace which directly preceded the ball. The patron of the gala was the Austrian Federal President Dr Heinz Fischer, which provided the event with political backing at the highest level.

"The AIDS response in the future will be led, shaped, and defined by young people. If we fail to build our AIDS response that is inclusive of young girls and young men who have sex with men we cannot achieve the goal of ending the AIDS epidemic," said UNAIDS Deputy Executive Director, Programme, Dr Luiz Loures. "Following Sir Elton John's words: we are going to the end of AIDS but we need to make sure we leave no one behind," he added.

The Life Ball itself began with the opening ceremony spectacle of tens of thousands of people thronging City Hall Square for a two-hour show staged on a gigantic red ribbon.

This year's Crystal of Hope Award - a 100 000 euro award given to individuals who are making a difference in the AIDS response - was presented by actor and producer Hilary Swank to representatives of the transnational project 'The Girl Effect', an initiative that supports young women to fight poverty and keep themselves safe from HIV. They were: Lisa T.D. Nguyen from Cambodia, Patricia Suriel from the Dominican Republic, Sulaiman Turay from Cameroon and Sadie St. Denis from Uganda.

Following the opening ceremony some 4 000 invited guests entered City Hall for an all-night event involving international performers.

Thousands of children and their mothers are expected to benefit from the several million dollars following Life Ball 2013. Organisers hope that this year's event will not only help to stop children becoming infected, but also further strengthen solidarity, understanding, and tolerance towards those living with and affected by HIV.