May 14 (UPI) — After more than a quarter-century raising of money for HIV and AIDS research, organizers in Austria are preparing to hold the last event.
Officials said this year’s Life Ball will be the last. It’s set for June 8 in Vienna.
Over the last 26 years, the ball has raised more than $33 million in donations for AIDS charity projects. Organizers are stopping the annual fundraiser because they said it’s getting more difficult to find sponsors — partly due to scientific advancements in fighting the virus.
“They were incredible, fantastic and intense years,” Life Ball founder and organizer Gery Keszler said in a statement. “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. We will continue to take a passionate stand against stigma and exclusion and fly the flag.”
The event typically draws about 45,000 people. Previous attendees include iconic British singer Elton John and former U.S. President Bill Clinton. Celebrity participants for this year’s ball include amfAR ambassador Katie Holmes, Oscar-nominated actress Keala Settle and burlesque artist Dita Von Teese.
Since the first Life Ball in 1993, AIDS has evolved from a deadly disease with no cure to a chronic disease that can be managed, Keszler said. British Director at One Romily Greenhill told BBC News “fantastic progress” has been made in fighting HIV but AIDS remains a global crisis. Some of the money raised this year will focus on world locations, like Africa, where the disease is still a significant problem.
“There are 1,000 young women and girls that are going to be infected with HIV today and 1,000 tomorrow,” Greenhill said. “By this time next week, 7,000 women and young girls will have been infected by HIV. That is still an enormous problem.”