Monday, 18 October 2010

Armenian gay rights group in LA - GALAS, raised thousands for AIDS Walk Los Angeles

Well done to GALAS members for their successful efforts in raising funds and awareness as part of the AIDS Walk Los Angeles. Many thanks to Haig Boyadjian for pictures. Such a lovely and cute team GALAS!
AIDS Walk Los Angeles is a 10-kilometer (6.2 mile) fundraising walkathon benefiting HIV/AIDS service organisations throughout Los Angeles County. This is an inspirational day filled with energy, excitement, hope, and even celebrities!
Earlier, LA-based independent Armenian publication - IANYAN magazine, posted an extensive reflection - Gay Armenians Raise Thousands for AIDS.

Below are selected extracts from IANYAN:

The Gay and Lesbian Armenian Society of Los Angeles (GALAS) has raised over $5,000  for AIDS Walk Los Angeles and will be walking with thousands of Angelenos in support of the 32 million people worldwide who are living with the disease this Sunday, Oct. 17.

With AIDS still considered taboo in Armenian circles, GALAS seeks to raise awareness and give back to the community. Their support and donation efforts benefit AIDS project Los Angeles, an AIDS service organization dedicated to improving lives of people affected by HIV, reducing HIV infection and advocating for fair and effective HIV-related public policy.

GALAS member Haig Boyadjian has raised $1,000 alone and says he knows a few people whom he loves dearly that are HIV positive. “I feel helpless since there is no cure, this is my way of helping find a cure and raising awareness,” he said. “The dollar amount raised is impressive for a fairly small organization like GALAS.

Chris Garsevanian, another GALAS member  has raised $500, donations that came from a variety of sources including two gay Armenians, one straight Jewish man, a a straight Israeli woman from Manhattan and a straight Iranian woman from the Los Angeles area.

Garsevanian is hopeful for a cure. “I can imagine a world where kids only deal with AIDS in history books,” he said. “I have faith that we will find a cure to AIDS within my lifetime.”

For some, participating in the walk and raising money is all about exposure.
“Our participation in the walk exposes GALAS to not only the general public, but also to LGBT Armenians who thought they were the only ones out there,” GALAS board member H.S., who wanted to be identified by initials only and has raised $575 so far. [...]

GALAS’ participation, as well as the Armenian Gay and Lesbian of New York’s participation over the years in New York’s Gay Pride Parade are relatively recent spotlights on the Armenian LGBT community, which has faced discrimination and ostracization in the Diaspora as well as in Armenia.

GALAS, who offers psychotherapy services to members and non-members alike,  has received threatening and homophobic emails and voicemails in the past.

“I think the notion of gay Armenians existing is taboo, let alone the idea that there might be Armenians who have AIDS,” Boyadjian said. “It’s not really talked about all too much.”

Garsevanian agrees, citing the notion that AIDS in the community as well as LGBT Armenians were considered “folklore” until recently. [...]

“I am hoping that our general membership will be impressed with the amount raised and the time and energy that has been devoted to this cause by all the walkers and sponsors and will in turn be more active next year,” Boyadjian said. “As long as my walking inspires at least one other member to walk next year, then I would be content.”

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