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RED Rooftop party raises funds and awareness for HIV and AIDS outreach

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Cardinal Engineering’s rooftop transforms into a Moroccan-themed cocktail and dance party to benefit AIDS Walk Oklahoma City. | Photo bigstock.com - BIGSTOCK
  • Bigstock
  • Cardinal Engineering’s rooftop transforms into a Moroccan-themed cocktail and dance party to benefit AIDS Walk Oklahoma City. | Photo bigstock.com

When RED Rooftop event organizers considered ideas for a fundraiser to benefit AIDS Walk Oklahoma City, what first came to mind was a casual outdoor event in early summer. The concept was a popular one, and this year marks the fourth annual rooftop event.

On June 2, the outdoor space on the roof of Cardinal Engineering, 1015 N. Broadway Ave., will be transformed into a Moroccan-themed cocktail and dance party. The event runs 7-10 p.m.

Each year’s party attracts a diverse crowd, said Lisa Pitsiri, AIDS Walk OKC board member. This year, a live DJ keeps things moving, raffle prizes will be awarded and guests can quench their summer thirst at a discounted full-service bar. The Moroccan theme influences decor, food, entertainment and music.

“We like to think of this event as an affordable alternative to some of the larger fundraisers,” Pitsiri said. “We are always looking for fun ways to raise awareness as well as funds.”

Changing perceptions

With today’s medical advances, HIV and AIDS diagnoses are not always the stark death sentences they were during the height of the health crisis in the 1980s. Although HIV and AIDS occupy far fewer headlines, organizers say those living with the virus and immunodeficiency disease still require lifelong treatment.

“Our mission at AIDS Walk of Oklahoma City is to build awareness about HIV and AIDS,” said Verna Meadows, AIDS Walk board president. “And we raise funds to support the work of nonprofit organizations that provide HIV and AIDS direct care, support services and education.”

Meadows said because patients are living longer, they face many of the same issues as other segments of the population, such as cancer, heart disease and age-related cognitive impairment, which add to treatment challenges.

In recent years, infection rates also have grown in younger generations, Meadows said.

In 2014, more than one in five new HIV diagnoses were in people age 13-24, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Eighty percent of those diagnosed were gay and bisexual men. From 2005 to 2014, CDC data show HIV diagnoses of gay and bisexual Hispanic/Latino and black men in that age group swelled 87 percent.

“They do not remember the horror of the early ’80s when people died. They think all they have to do is take a pill and they will be fine,” she said. “That age group doesn’t seem to understand the side effects of the pills or that some cost upward of $3,000 a month.”

Community outreach

All funds the group raises at RED Rooftop and other events throughout the year stay in Oklahoma, Pitsiri said. They are awarded in the form of grants to local nonprofits that serve those living with HIV and AIDS.

“We will distribute our grant checks late in the year on December 1, which is World AIDS Day,” Pitsiri said.

RED Rooftop guests are encouraged to wear red, and Pitsiri said attire is “evening summer casual with flair.”

AIDS Walk Oklahoma City hosts an information booth during OKC Pride week events in June, and its annual walk and run is Sept. 25. The organization also participates in Pay it Forward fundraising days with two local S&B’s Burger Joint locations.

Learn more at facebook.com/aidswalkokc and aidswalkokc.org.

Print headline: Summer glow, A Moroccan-themed RED Rooftop cocktail and dance party helps raise funds and awareness for HIV and AIDS outreach.

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