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Resilience hope, courage and determination

It’s a night of great music, delicious food, and lots of fun and dancing – and all for a cause – to help The Bahamas AIDS Foundation rebuild its funding sources after the COVID pandemic and in the return of the 27th Annual Red Ribbon Ball.

According to Camille Lady Barnett, president, The Bahamas AIDS Foundation, now more than ever, the foundation needs all the support it can get.

Barnett said the ball theme “1,001 Arabian Nights” underscores “the importance of resilience, hope, courage and determination in life” for the Red Ribbon Ball which is the foundation’s biggest fundraiser dedicated to supporting the fight against HIV and AIDS in The Bahamas. The ball will be held on Saturday, November 4, at the Atlantis Ballroom.

They hope to raise at least $150,000 towards the ongoing work of the Bahamas AIDS Foundation. On average it costs the foundation approximately $200,000 yearly to operate. And it is more than that when in-kind donations are factored in.

The foundation supports approximately 80 people, infected and affected by HIV/AIDS.

Estimates indicate that 6,088 people were living with HIV in The Bahamas as of December 31, 2019 with 133 new HIV diagnoses – a 15 percent decrease from 2018, and a 53 percent decrease from 2010.

The largest proportion of cases were male (62 percent); from New Providence (88 percent) and Bahamian (88 percent).

There were 70 AIDS-related deaths, and zero cases of mother-to-child transmission in The Bahamas in 2019.

There have been 5,798 AIDS-related deaths in The Bahamas since 1985, with 70 deaths occurring in 2019.

In 2020, Lady Barnett said The Bahamas was going in the right direction, with the numbers going down, but she said education was still needed. She described the teen and young adult positivity numbers in The Bahamas as “interesting”, as 21 percent of new cases were between the ages of 15 and 24.

She said HIV/AIDS education/awareness and information about prevention must continue.

According to Barnett, there are three high risk groups – young people, sex workers, and men who have sex with men.

Lady Barnett said people have to come together to fight the disease and share responsibility in terms of protecting themselves, their partners, and not discriminating against HIV-positive people.

She previously said while discrimination may not be as widespread as it once was, it is still in existence.

“We have come a long way since the 1980s, but stigma is still an issue, unfortunately. As people are educated about how you contract HIV, I think people will become more comfortable, and realize the only way to catch it is through unprotected sex with someone that is positive.”

The first case of HIV diagnosed in The Bahamas was in 1983, two years after the first case was described in the United States in 1981.

While the Red Ribbon Ball is being staged with support of this serious cause in mind, it will be a fantastic affair, with The Essence Band tapped for the cocktail hour, and the Falcon Band in the ballroom. Artist Allan Wallace will be working his magic on canvas in the ballroom as guests dance the night away, as well as a special one-of-a-kind entertainment that Lady Barnett said will make ball attendees feel as if they have been transported to Morocco.

Arame Ford-Strachan, Red Ribbon Ball committee member said ball attendees can expect to attend an event that is animated and engaged and a “down-to-the-ground” party “disguised” as an opulent event.

“This event was dedicated to supporting the fight against AIDS and HIV. The chosen theme held a profound significance, serving a dual purpose – it aimed to exalt the rich Arabian Middle Eastern culture, highlighting the utmost importance of unity, compassion, and inclusivity in our battle against the epidemic [and] it drew parallels between the captivating tales of Arabian nights and the stories of resilience, hope, and determination shared by those affected by AIDS and HIV,” said Ford-Strachan.

She said people yearn for a future where AIDS and HIV are eradicated and their “heroes” live free from the burdens of discrimination and stigma.

“AIDS is a very present issue in this country still, and we still have adolescents and children living infected and affected with HIV and AIDS that we need to support,” she previously said. “There are patients needing medication. We need to get our PSAs [public service announcements] out to sensitize the public about this cause, so we’re really needing to have this ball to solicit funding, and advocate for tolerance amongst Bahamians for people suffering with this disease,” said Ford.

As they prepare to host their first ball since 2019, Ford said the money is desperately needed as they have exhausted all of their resources, which meant they had to cut back on much-needed programs.

“Our biggest effort right now is providing food and medication to some families because there is still a big issue of food insecurity in the country, and for many families and many patients that aren’t healthy enough to go out and seek daily bread, that right now is. With the resources that we have, our priority is feeding the people that we service, but we would like to re-engage the school program.”

Foundation programs include outreach for adolescents infected and affected by HIV and AIDS which started in 2010 and providing psychosocial, medical, and educational support.

The educational component includes after school help five days a week, computer access, tutors, preparation for national examinations.

Psychosocial components include counseling, a food and clothing bank, life skills, career development (job preparation and skills training), hot meals five days a week, character development, peer support, and day care support.

Medical components include health and well-being, clinic/hospital support and medicine adherence.

And advocacy and support to adults living with HIV/AIDS – testing throughout the islands, support to vulnerable/underserved communities, provision of preventative care, and resource provision.

Through purchasing a ticket to attend the ball, or to give to someone to attend, or make a donation, she said patrons would be assisting a worthy cause.

Longtime sponsors Commonwealth Brewery, John Bull, Pictet Bank & Trust Limited, Zamar Group, and Wildflowers are onboard.

The Red Ribbon Ball she said will be transformed into a mesmerizing oasis with vibrant colors, intricate patterns, and the intoxicating scents of far-off destinations.

As the night unfolds, she said graceful dancers swaying to the rhythm of Arabian music, will weave a tale of hope. Ford-Strachan said it will be “fabulous”.

“This tale of ‘1,001 Arabian Nights’ serves as a powerful reminder that through our collective efforts, we can create a world where no one endures the devastating effects of AIDS and HIV. In this world, every individual is embraced with love and can dare to dream of a future free from the grip of AIDS/HIV.”

She said ball committee members are excited for their upcoming fundraiser and that their regular patrons are excited because they know what to expect. And that they had three years in the drawing room to come up with the fabulous event.

“It’s going to be a party you don’t want to miss,” said Ford-Strachan. “There’s going to be a lot of elements to really captivate your interest during the ball,” said Ford-Strachan.

Corporate Bahamas is encouraged to show their support by purchasing tables. Individuals can purchase tickets at $300 per person. You can reach out to us at our resource center at or telephone 325-9326.

There is also the option of platinum tables of 10 or 12 at which Champagne will be poured during the night; wine will be served at the other tables.

The Red Ribbon Ball came to be after Imperial Life in 1993, offered to coordinate and host a fundraiser for the Bahamas AIDS Foundation. Through the work of Colina/Imperial Life staff, most notably, Richenda King, RRB became the premiere ball of the social season. And funds from the ball enabled the foundation to renovate 14 Delancey Street as their office. The Delancey Street property was donated by Colina Insurance Company’s legacy company Imperial Life Insurance Company of Canada.

Colina/Imperial hosted the RRB from 1993 through 2012 raising over $950,000.

The Bahamas AIDS Foundation has hosted the RRB from 2013 to present, raising approximately $630,000.