On Thursday, red boas curled around the lights of the Blind Duck Pub for SEC, OUT@UTM, and UTMAC’s 19th-century  Moulin Rouge burlesque-themed World AIDS Gala. The main attraction was the Coco Framboise Burlesque Dance Troupe, complete with satin feathers and sequins.

“SEC is faced with addressing students who don’t feel attached or impacted by HIV/AIDS, although in reality one fourth of all new infections are occurring among youth,” said Alexsandra Petkovska, the advertising director of SEC. “We worked to make this event as accessible and fun and sexy as we could.”

Senka Zahirovic, a fifth-year psychology student, came up with the idea of Moulin Rouge as a theme for this year’s gala. There seemed to be no intent to reinforce the stereotypical link between promiscuity and AIDS; the main concern was to raise awareness and grab students’ attention to participate in the fundraiser.

All the revenue from ticket sales and donations will go to charities that partner with the Peel HIV/AIDS Network. The SEC team will vote this week on the top two charities that will receive all the funds raised. Donations are still open; their goal is to raise $1,500, which will be matched by the SEC team if reached.

Since 1992, the Peel HIV/AIDS Network has provided community education and outreach programs. They also provide counselling, case management, health promotion for people living with HIV/AIDS, and other programs.

Petkovska addressed the stigmatization of AIDS as “a gay, black, or junkie disease, although in reality, it is a universal syndrome that impacts people across all demographic groups and is far from over in Canada”. The gala sought to take down these stereotypes and convey that AIDS is a real issue.

In a message to the UTM community, lead burlesque dancer Coco Framboise expressed her excitement at spreading awareness and raising funds for the Peel HIV/AIDS Network. “AIDS is an obvious issue,” she said. “It’s deadly, but there are waves of awareness—sometimes public attention and buzz waver.”

Framboise invited UTM to think about monthly giving in small ways to make a change towards how we want the world to be different. “I’d like to create and live in a culture of giving,” she said.

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