By Kambiz Shekdar, Ph.D.
On Valentine’s Day weekend, Research Foundation to Cure AIDS (RFTCA) held its first “Love Labs” Bachelor and Bachelorette Auctions at Henrietta Hudson and Club Cumming—lesbian and gay bars, one in the West Village and one in the East Village.
Why a dating game to help cure AIDS? The leading edge of medical philanthropy is always driven by those impacted by a disease who have the ability to pay, yet most of the wealthiest gay men with HIV/AIDS keep it a closely guarded secret. Would-be high-level donors can almost always live near normal lives with the best healthcare in the world, and many choose to do so without disclosing their HIV/AIDS status to anyone. Splashy celebrity-fueled galas may draw people out, but it’s quite another thing to prioritize one’s giving to cure AIDS.
If it is challenging for rich older gay men with HIV/AIDS to make curing AIDS their priority, perhaps it may be young gay men living with AIDS (and their families) who fill their shoes. That’s where RFTCA’s “The Love Lab” comes in.
At each Love Lab, bachelors and bachelorettes take the stage. Following a brief Q&A, bidding begins to win a date with each contestant. The bar keeps 100 percent of the bar intake (business as usual), but 100 percent of the winning bids go directly to RFTCA, a 501(c)3 not-for-profit organization. When our bachelors took the stage at close to midnight deep into the Saturday night event at Club Cumming, everyone in the packed room became silent in full anticipation. In the pin-drop silence our message was heard: what we need now are the Greta Thunbergs of a new movement to cure AIDS. In an age when the focus on AIDS is on treatment and prevention, our message to young gay men with HIV/AIDS is this: your lives matter, too!
Living with HIV/AIDS is not the dream of future generations.
For our youth, a cure is on the horizon and at stake. By hosting The Love Lab at Club Cumming, recently voted best gay bar in New York City for a second year in a row, as well as at Henrietta Hudson, a long-standing West Village lesbian bar that caters to a diverse clientele, we hope to engage all stakeholders.
Love Labs will take place once a month at Club Cumming and at Henrietta Hudson. After we get a few rounds under our belt, perhaps we will export the model to additional cities around the world. Please get in touch if you would like to participate in our date auction, either as a participant or as an additional host venue.
A great thanks to Darren Dryden, co-owner and DJ at Club Cumming, co-DJ Sammy Jo and Club Cumming host Daphne Always, as well as to Lisa Cannistraci, owner of Henrietta Hudson, and Robert Galinsky, host of The Love Lab there, for launching the series. Says trans-devoted artist and activist Galinsky, “Working to save lives through RFTCA is one of my passions; and The Love Lab is where I show support to my sisters, cousins, nieces, aunts and mothers!”
Kambiz Shekdar, Ph.D. is a biologist, a biotech inventor, a gay man, and the president of Research Foundation to Cure AIDS (RFTCA). Visit FreeFromAIDS.org to help accelerate a cure for AIDS.
Contact email@example.com to inquire about joining RFTCA’s founders’ circle.