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Vienna Life Ball: AIDS fundraiser to end after 26 years

Lily Wakefield May 14, 2019
Vienna Life Ball AIDS opening 2017

Guests arrive at the opening of the Life Ball 2017 (ALEX HALADA/Getty)

Vienna’s Life Ball, one of the world’s biggest fundraising events for people with HIV and AIDS, will be held for the last time this year, organisers have announced.

Gery Keszler, a former make-up artist, launched the ball 26 years ago and in that time has raised over £26 million in donations for AIDS charity projects.

However, because of the progress achieved in fighting AIDS, it has become difficult for organisers LIFE+ to secure donations and sponsors.

Vienna Life Ball comes to an end due to fewer allies and donations

Keszler said in a statement: “The underlying conditions and circumstances have changed greatly over the last few years. We have achieved a lot in the fight against AIDS. AIDS has changed from a death sentence to being a chronic disease.

“The paradox of this success is that the number of allies for AIDS charity projects is decreasing both at home and abroad.”

According to The Local, the amount of money raised has continued to fall, raising only £1.1 million in 2018, making it more difficult to justify the costs associated with the ball.

The ball has attracted celebrities like Elton John, Vivienne Westwood and former US President Bill Clinton, along with 45,000 spectators each year.

Former US President Bill Clinton at Life Ball Vienna 2010
Bill Clinton at the 2010 Vienna Life Ball (SAMUEL KUBANI/AFP/Getty)

“They were incredible, fantastic and intense years. We achieved more than we ever dared hope. I am so eternally grateful. It is now time to bring this project to a fitting conclusion,” Keszler added of the ball’s success.

Organiser LIFE+ is, according to the statement, the world’s 16th most important fundraiser for HIV and AIDS and plans to continue its work with other projects.

HIV is still a global crisis

Romilly Greenhill, UK director of charity ONE, told the BBC that despite the “fantastic progress” in treating HIV, it is still a global crisis.

Greenhill said: “There are 1,000 young women and girls that are going to be infected with HIV today and 1,000 tomorrow. By this time next week 7,000 women and young girls will have been infected by HIV. That is still an enormous problem.”

According to the World Health Organisation approximately 36.9 million people were living with HIV at the end of 2017, with 1.8 million people becoming newly infected in 2017 globally.

The theme for this year’s Life Ball, which will take place on June 8, is “United in Diversity.”

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