AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF) was awarded the Pasadena Tournament of Roses Queen’s Trophy for the second consecutive year for their float ‘The Global Face of AIDS,’ which highlighted the breadth of AHF’s global actions in accordance with the parade theme of ‘Oh, The Places You’ll Go!’ AHF’s sophomore entry in the historic New Year’s Day parade was the only float in the 2013 procession to feature exclusively roses as its floral element, including over 30,000 bright red Charlotte roses for the 17-foot-tall, 60-foot-long Red Ribbon — the international symbol for HIV/AIDS awareness — and over 10,000 roses of six different varieties to adorn the tall cutouts of South America, Africa, Australia, Asia, North America, and Europe, which represented the 28 countries worldwide where AHF works to provide testing, treatment, and advocacy in the fight against HIV/AIDS. The float, which was built in Irwindale, CA by Fiesta Floats, was also adorned with a rotating 10-foot-diameter globe that was covered in white and brown sesame seeds and encircled by 25 flags from countries served by AHF, which were decorated with organic materials like blue sinuata statice, black onion seed, red ilex berries, yellow strawflower petals, green parsley flakes, and white sweet rice. Most important in presenting the message of the float were the six international float riders in cultural dress standing next to their respective continents — Grace Mugisha Akamumuz, 47, and Mariam Nazziwa, 9, of Uganda; Marcos Ledesma, 36, of Mexico; Francis Xavier De Melo, 48, of India; Svetlana Prosvirina, 48, of Russia; and 28-year-old U.S. representative Hydeia Broadbent — who are all people living with HIV who engage in HIV/AIDS-related activism or receive care from AHF in their home countries.
Among the riders are two Ugandan representatives: Grace Mugisha Akamumuz, 47, and Mariam Nazziwa, 9. Grace, who has been living with HIV for more than a decade, became one of AHF’s first Ugandan clients when she began receiving care through the organization in 2001. Today, she is an administrator in one of the biggest AHF clinics in Masaka and has been trained by the Foundation as an HIV medic. Mariam, who was exposed to HIV at birth, has been an AHF client since the age of 3. She warmed hearts in the 2009 AHF documentary “If Not Now…” when she told how she knew it was time to take her antiretroviral medication (ARVs) by the song of a particular bird that sang in the mornings and evenings.
Representing Mexico is 36-year-old Marcos Ledesma, who has been living with HIV since 2007 but, thanks to treatment he is receiving from an AHF-supported clinic in his hometown of Mexico City, his viral load is currently undetectable and he lives a productive life. He is a drug treatment and HIV counselor with Condomovil, a mobilized condom distribution and HIV-testing organization that is funded by AHF and has been operating throughout Mexico for over 20 years.
Another international activist riding on the float is Francis Xavier De Melo, 48, of India. HIV-positive since that age of 29, Francis has been receiving care from AHF since 2000 and is currently an Assistant Prevention Programs Coordinator in New Delhi for India Cares, which is AHF’s local country branch there. He also took a stand against the stigmatization faced by both openly gay men and openly HIV-positive people in India by founding the Love Life Society in 2005 to fight discrimination through advocacy and sensitization of the general population, including the police and health departments. Membership steadily grew from three people to more than 900, and through coordination with AHF, the rallies, gay parades, and workshops LLS hosted in Delhi were replicated in the other states throughout India.
Flying in from the Eastern European exclave of Kaliningrad is Russian activist Svetlana Prosvirina, 48, who has been living with HIV for over a decade and is a leader in the fight to ensure treatment for Russians living with the virus. She is the head of “Status Plus,” a Kaliningrad regional non-government organization for people living with HIV, and is a member of the “Patients in Control” movement that unites Russians living with HIV, tuberculosis, and other serious diseases. Additionally, during recent shortages of antiretroviral medication (ARVs) in her country, Svetlana took part in street demonstrations outside the Russian Ministry of Health to send the message to officials that the drug shortage was a death sentence for many living with HIV in the country. These efforts, as well as her support of treatment for HIV-positive people who are also living with tuberculosis or are in prison, earned her a Red Ribbon Award, with which she was presented in Washington, D.C., in the summer of 2012.
Representing the United States is a young woman who has been an AIDS activist since childhood, and who was awarded the Third Annual AHF World AIDS Day Award on December 1, 2012 in a poignant ceremony during KIIS-FM’s annual star-studded Jingle Ball concert at LA Live. Las Vegas native Hydeia Broadbent, 28, was born with HIV and made her first stand in the name of young people living with HIV at just six years old, when she appeared on a Nickelodeon television special with Magic Johnson and tearfully expressed that all she wanted was to be treated normally. Since then, she has continued drawing light to the ongoing fight against HIV/AIDS and HIV stigma by speaking at conferences and universities across the country.
Quite graciously, Herb Fisher, AHFs Associate Director of Global Advocacy and himself also a longtime survivor living successfully with HIV/AIDS, represented the continent of Australia on the float during the official judging on the morning of Dec. 31 after the intended Australian representative was unable to participate.
We offer each and every one of our Rose Parade float participants our sincere thanks for joining us for this momentous occasion to show the world the Global Face of AIDS and how every day, AIDS Healthcare Foundation is helping win the battle against the pandemic worldwide.