“I’m an optimist,” declared Bill Gates Saturday night at the Kennedy Center. “We will make AIDS history.”
Gates received the Award of Courage from the Foundation for AIDS Research at its Together to End AIDS gala, which was sponsored by MAC Viva Glam cosmetics.
The night kicked off the 19th International AIDS conference, held in the U.S. for the first time since 1990.
Actress Sharon Stone, Amfar’s global fundraising chairman, presented Gates with his award.
Wearing a sleek ponytail and beige platform heels, Stone fought back tears as she praised the Microsoft founder and said he not only understood the mathematics of computers, but “the mathematics of humanity.”
The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has given more than $2.5 billion to philanthropies around the world, including Amfar. He and his wife, who didn’t attend Saturday, have devoted special attention and resources to the HIV pandemic in Africa, including a $1.4 billion commitment to the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria.
The usually reticent Gates seemed relaxed on the red carpet, posing for photographs and taking questions from reporters.
He mentioned that a cousin had died of AIDS complications in the mid-1980s.
During the cocktail hour, he mingled with business leaders and medical professionals like Dr. Mervyn Silverman, the former president of Amfar. Silverman said that despite the progress in awareness and education, there are still about 50,000 new HIV infections in the U.S. every year.
Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, California Democrat, Representative Ed Markey, Massachusetts Democrat, and Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius were among the politicos who turned out to salute Gates.
Other guests included singer Eve, actor John Corbett, and Ralph Lauren model Tyson Beckford in a crisp white blazer. Designer Kenneth Cole, Amfar’s chairman of the board, wore a bright red AIDS-awareness pin.
Pelosi, shimmering in a champagne-colored pantsuit, lauded President Barack Obama for lifting the ban on HIV-infected visitors to the U.S. in 2010, which allowed the conference to return to Washington, the city with the highest HIV-infected population in the country.
Corbett said he just returned from a motorcycle trip on a Harley Davidson Road King for the third annual Kiehl’s LifeRide for Amfar.
Cured of AIDS
Chris Salgardo, president of the cosmetics company Kiehl’s Since 1851 and another LifeRider, chatted with Timothy Brown, who has been HIV-free and off antiviral drugs since 2007 when he underwent a marrow transplant in Berlin. He is often referred to as the first known cured AIDS patient.
“Thanks for coming out,” said one guest to journalist and talk-show host Anderson Cooper, shaking his hand during the cocktail reception. Cooper recently announced his sexuality.
During dinner, which consisted of panzanella salad, grilled hanger steak, and berry cobbler, Jessye Norman sang a stirring rendition of “You’ll Never Walk Alone.”
Proceeds from the event benefit Amfar and GBC Health.
Friday night Belgian Ambassador Jan Matthysen welcomed more than 600 guests to his residence in celebration of Belgium’s national day on July 21.
Embassy chef Jan Van Haute served paper cones of frites drizzled in mayonnaise. Belgian chocolates and bite-sized slices of Belgian waffles tempted everyone. Bars showcased 17 Belgian beers.
Former Michigan Governor James Blanchard, now with DLA Piper LLP, chose wine. He said he had his fill of beer on a recent trip to Brussels.
Among those present were the Under Secretary of the Army Joseph Westphal and Walter Cutler, a senior adviser at Trust Company of the West.
Guests took advantage of the breezy evening by lingering on Matthysen’s terrace overlooking an expansive green lawn.
(Stephanie Green is a writer and photographer for Muse, the arts and leisure section of Bloomberg News. Any opinions expressed are her own.)
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