Business leaders, civil society, politicians attend 18th annual Red Ribbon Ball
Several business leaders, prominent members of Parliament and civil society luminaries were on hand to lend their support at the 18th annual Red Ribbon Ball, held at Atlantis’ Imperial Ballroom this past Saturday.
The ball is the major fundraising event for the Bahamas AIDS Foundation, which once again received $50,000 from Colina Insurance Ltd., the primary sponsor of the event, and $25,000 from Kerzner International.
The theme of the ball this year, ‘Removing the Mask’, is symbolic of removing the stigma in society towards those who are HIV positive, said Lady Camille Barnett, president of the AIDS Foundation. “I love the idea of removing the mask to sensitize people to some of the issues of HIV/AIDS,” she added.
“Our largest donations come from corporate sponsors and we really wouldn’t be able to do anything without [the] corporate sponsors. These are individuals who give and we truly appreciate [that], because we know that what little they have they are willing to give us, but we also know that we need to get funds from corporate entities,” said Barnett.
Emanuel Alexiou, executive vice chairman of Colina Insurance Ltd., said that through the company’s involvement in the fundraiser, it has the opportunity to help and impact the lives of many persons.
Sandra Smith, who represents Colina as a co-chairperson of the ball, said “There are a lot of children being born with this disease and other children living with it. So we decided we would take it on and assist the AIDS Foundation and put it (the ball) on every year.”
Over the years the event has raised close to a million dollars to provide medicine for HIV-positive pregnant women, establish outreach programs for adolescents infected with HIV and AIDS,and create public service announcements to educate the public.
Barnett gushed as she spoke about the importance of the ball and how it helps those living with HIV/AIDS.
“We work with adolescents who are HIV positive and their siblings. We started to work with them because we were made aware of a situation [in which] the adolescents were not taking their medication.
“These were kids who got it as a result of mother to child transmission, and if you don’t take your medication what happens is you get sick; you go into the hospital and at the end of the day if you keep doing that, you die. And so we decided that this was something we had to do.”
She continued, “We weren’t sure how to tackle the issue, and we decided the best way would be to provide them with support and so they come to us every afternoon for an afterschool program. We do some tutoring with them, but we also do some psychosocial intervention. We try to work on things like self esteem. The whole idea is, if we can build up their self esteem, make them feel good about themselves, they’ll want to live and take their medication.”
Last week Minister of Health Dr. Hubert Minnis revealed that HIV/AIDS medication is slowly being introduced within the public heath clinics. “That will help remove the stigma as well too,” said Barnett, “because you don’t know why someone is in the clinic.”
She said the South Beach clinic and the Princess Margret Hospital currently offer the service.
Photo Caption: Kerzner International, longtime sponsor of the Red Ribbon Ball, presents a check for $25,000 to the Bahamas AIDS Foundation. From left are Dr. Hubert Minnis, Minister of Health; Lady Camille Barnett, president, Bahamas AIDS Foundation; Ed Fields, senior vice president, public affairs and retail services, Kerzner International; DeAndrea Lewis, co-chair, Red Ribbon Ball (Colina Insurance Limited)); Emanuel M. Alexiou, executive vice chairman, Colina Insurance Limited; J. Barrie Farrington, senior vice president, administration, Kerzner International; Sandra Smith, co-chair, Red Ribbon Ball (Colina Insurance Limited), and Dr. Perry Gomez, director, National AIDS Programme.
Photo by Vision Photography.