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Writer and Activist Dan Savage To Deliver "It Gets Better" Keynote at Chicago AIDS Foundation

Sunday Apr 10, 2011
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CHICAGO - For almost as long as there’s been an AIDS epidemic, the AIDS Foundation of Chicago (AFC) has been a leading force in the battle to defeat it. This year AFC will mark the culmination of its 25th anniversary and share its vision for the future with a special luncheon featuring nationally syndicated advice columnist, writer and activist Dan Savage.

In 1985, AFC was founded to compassionately treat a stigmatized and ill-understood condition. Twenty-five years later, Dan Savage created the ’It Gets Better Project’ to support LGBT youth facing bullying or harassment. As AFC closes its 25th year, Savage will deliver the keynote address at AFC’s Spring Luncheon, illustrating the evolving nature of the AIDS crisis and its impact on both individual and collective identities.

Savage is witty, honest, and keenly concerned about the safety of LGBTQ youth who all too often face anti-gay harassment at school and in their communities. It is this intolerance that foments cycles of depression, drug use, early sexual debut, and suicide among young people questioning their self-worth and sexuality and creates conditions for HIV to thrive.

The May 2 benefit will serve as a vantage point to reflect on AFC’s years of service to Chicago and to spark discussion in response to discrimination against HIV-positive and LGBT individuals. This inaugural event will begin with a VIP reception at 11 a.m. at the Hilton Chicago, 720 S. Michigan Ave. Dan Savage’s remarks will begin soon after the Luncheon commences at 12 p.m.

Savage began the ’It Gets Better Project’ in response to the suicide of Indiana teen Billy Lucas. Since September 2010, more than 10,000 supporters from all walks of life and orientations have uploaded videos pledging their commitment to defending threatened LGBT youth. This year, AFC President and CEO David Ernesto Munar joined the ranks of President Barack Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton as he shared his own experience in an It Gets Better video .

"As a gay man living with HIV, I can’t think of a better way to spread the message of not only hope, but acceptance," Munar said.. "Since my diagnosis, I’ve found that life does get better, primarily through service to others. In the next quarter century, AFC aims to further understanding by providing care that allows HIV to become a facet of a person’s life rather than the dominating influence."

In a March 2011 interview with the Windy City Times, Savage explained how the AIDS epidemic factors in with bullying: "When people are brutalized about their sexuality, we know as adults there can be certain emotional repercussions and pathologies. We know that substance abuse is higher in the gay community as well as suicide rates. [Scissor Sisters’ ] Jake Shears has a great essay in the [It Gets Better] book where he talks about the rage that he still feels due to what he was put through as a gay teenager. He has funneled all of that rage into his art. He has externalized it and directed it outwards."

Savage, however, has observed that "too many gay people don’t direct it outwards. They direct it at themselves. They are bullied by their parents, by spiritual leaders, peers, then as adults they continue to bully themselves through self-abuse and harm. So certainly reckless sexual risk taking is part of the long lasting psychological impacts that a culture of intolerance has."

Suicide rates among LGBT youth are four times higher than their straight peers, while those with HIV are three times more likely to take their own lives.
AFC has been at the forefront of addressing these challenges by supporting HIV-related anti-stigma campaigns, engaging young people online through withmecomesacure.org, Peter Pointers on Facebook, and ringonit.org, and promoting healthy, resilient images of gay men through a project akin to It Gets Better called "How are you healthy?" Its health promotion portal LifeLube.org engages transgender, gay, and bi men in health topics and community mobilization activities.

AFC also supports an array of HIV prevention, care, and advocacy projects serving tens of thousands of trans, gay, and bi men citywide and its staff are championing legislation pending in the Illinois General Assembly to advance comprehensive sexuality education in Illinois schools.

Individual tickets to the luncheon are $150. Premium tickets, including entry to the VIP reception with Dan Savage, are $300. VIP tickets, including reception admission and a sponsored ticket for an HIV-positive individual, are $500. Tables range from $1,500 to $5,000. Ticket sales support AFC’s grantmaking, policy, and public education programs, and may be obtained by visiting aidschicago.org or by calling 312-922-2322.

Savage and his partner, Terry Miller, created an affirming video diary project called "It Gets Better" to support young people facing anti-gay harassment in response to reports of students taking their own lives after being bullied in school.

Founded by community activists and physicians in 1985, AFC is a catalyst for local, national, and international action on HIV/AIDS. Learn more at: aidschicago.org

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DETAILS:

WHEN: Monday, May 2, 2011

11 a.m. - "It Gets Better" VIP Reception

12 p.m. - Luncheon

WHERE: Hilton Chicago - 720 S. Michigan Ave.

TICKETS: $150 - Luncheon

$300 - Luncheon and VIP Reception

$500 - Luncheon, VIP Reception and you give the gift of an honorary ticket to an individual impacted by HIV/AIDS

*Table reservations are also available.

To purchase tickets visit: aidschicago.org > or call: (312) 922-2322

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