Clinton Feted, Elton, Stevie, Dionne, Gladys Reprise ’Friends’

Thanks to Elton John, Gladys Knight, Stevie Wonder and Dionne Warwick, the Foundation for AIDS Research enjoyed an auspicious start in 1985.

The quartet sang “That’s What Friends Are For” and pledged their royalties to the nonprofit, as did Arista Records, which released the single. Since then, the tune has generated $3 million for Amfar.

The organization will mark its 25th anniversary at a gala tomorrow night at Cipriani Wall Street in Manhattan. The four singers will take the stage to sing “Friends” for 750 guests, who’ll dine on chilled lobster and filet of beef.

Organizers hope to raise more than the $1 million usually brought in by the annual gala, which kicks off the 2011 Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week in New York. Former President Bill Clinton, Elizabeth Taylor and fashion designer Diane von Furstenberg will be honored with the organization’s annual Awards of Courage for their leadership in the fight against AIDS.

“President Clinton’s foundation has been instrumental in lowering the price of AIDS medication,” Kevin Robert Frost, Amfar’s chief executive officer, said by phone. He is also a member of the U.S. Presidential Advisory Committee on HIV/AIDS.

The nonprofit’s supporters have included many from the fashion industry, which lost some of its stalwarts -- such as Roy Halston Frowick, Perry Ellis and Patrick Kelly -- to AIDS and HIV virus-related illnesses. Kenneth Cole is currently chairman of the Amfar board.

Since its founding, Amfar has given more than $325 million to 2,000 research teams worldwide. Its current budget is $26 million.

“Where Amfar has stood out is in its willingness to fund research that’s on the cutting edge,” said Frost.

Success Story

One of Amfar’s success stories was funding the research work of Dr. Ruth M. Ruprecht, a Harvard Medical School professor, in 1994. Her experiments showed that the use of an antibody found in monkeys -- called azidothymidine and known as AZT -- could reduce the risk of mother-to-infant transmission of HIV.

(The Amfar New York Gala is tomorrow night at Cipriani Wall Street, 55 Wall St. at 6:30 p.m. Tickets start at $1,000. Information: +1-212-806-1615 or http://www.amfar.org.)

To contact the writer on this story: Patrick Cole in New York at pcole3@bloomberg.net.

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Manuela Hoelterhoff in New York at mhoelterhoff@bloomberg.net.

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