ANTIBES, France — The Foundation Against AIDS (amfAR) hosted its annual Cinema Against AIDS gala on May 22, 2014, in France, and raised a record $35 million for the organization. The black tie event, which coincides with the famous Cannes Film Festival, featured a live auction, all-red fashion show and musical performances by Robin Thicke, Lana Del Rey, Aloe Blacc and Andrea Bocelli.
The gala was hosted by American film producer and studio executive Harvey Weinstein, who had the honor of announcing the record-breaking $35 million, which was $10 million more than the fundraiser earned in 2013.
Many celebrities attended the gala, including Adrien Brody, John Travolta, Justin Bieber, Marion Cotillard, Jessica Chastain and Leonardo DiCaprio. One of the items being auctioned off was a seat with DiCaprio aboard the Virgin Galactic when it lifts off for a trip into outer space in 2015. This seat went for $700,000, but was not the most expensive sale of the night. This honor went to a gilded woolly mammoth skeleton, which sold for $15 million, the highest bid in amfAR’s history.
amfAR was founded in 1985 and has since played a leading role in funding HIV/AIDS research and accelerating the process of making the disease a thing of the past. In its 29 years, amfAR has given $388 million to AIDS research and more than 3,300 grants to research teams. Thanks to amfAR’s funding, advancements have been made in areas including treatment, prevention, public policy and education. One example of their many accomplishments is funding studies that led to the eventual development of protein inhibitors, which prevent viral replication and have saved the lives of countless individuals who would have died if it were not for these drugs.
In addition to its research program, amfAR also has a TREAT Asia program, which works to treat those suffering from HIV/AIDS throughout Asia and the Pacific, and a GMT Initiative, which strives to reduce HIV worldwide among the LGBT community. There is currently no cure for HIV/AIDS, but amfAR believes that a cure is possible by the year 2020. It is an ambitious goal but there have been a multitude of recent breakthroughs in AIDS research, and with the $100 million amfAR plans to invest in cure research over the next six years, combined with aggressive research strategies, amfAR believes that modern medicine has what it takes to end the AIDS epidemic.
HIV/AIDS is most commonly found in sub-Saharan Africa, and is spreading most rapidly in Eastern Europe and Central Asia. In some African countries, as many as one in five adults are infected with HIV, and in Eastern Europe and Central Asia, the number of people infected with HIV has increased by 250 percent since the early 2000s. In addition to the challenges of finding a cure, there are also the challenges of administering treatment in these heavily afflicted countries with high poverty rates and little access to health care.
Since the inception of Cinema Against AIDS in 1993, the gala has become one of the most exclusive events in France, and has raised many millions of dollars for the organization to invest, not only into research, but its other programs such as TREAT Asia. amfAR’s next event will be the Inspiration Gala in New York City on June 10. This gala will be hosted by Josh Duhamel and celebrates men’s fashion. The Inspiration Series was launched in 2010 and has raised more than $13 million to date.