Ed is a heterosexual man, has been married more than 20 years, has three children—and has HIV. He is one of more than 1.1 million people in the United States carrying the virus. About one in six of these people do not know they have it. Ed used to be in that category.
In 1999, Ed got sick and dropped down to 105 pounds. He says he was skin and bones. He had been carrying the HIV virus for almost 10 years without knowing.
After his diagnosis, Ed returned to work as a plumber but had to endure hurtful comments from some coworkers. "I was working in construction, which is a man's world, and you know if you say you have HIV, some idiot would say something about me being gay. So word got out at work, and people said some terrible things ... and it was very upsetting to me. ... This is not a disease that only impacts gay people. It can affect everyone."
Ed went to Tucson Interfaith HIV/AIDS Network (TIHAN) for support. "When I was first diagnosed ... I thought I was alone. TIHAN helped me realize that I was not alone, that there were many people in the same boat."
TIHAN provides compassionate care and services to those affected by HIV/AIDS. They work with the community to promote education and prevention of the disease and offer spiritual care, emergency financial support and advocacy for those affected by HIV/AIDS, along with other programs.
TIHAN has several events throughout the year to raise money to support their work. Their largest fundraiser is Treasures for TIHAN.
"This is our biggest party of the year. It's the most important event (so that we can) continue to sustain programs for those living with HIV and AIDS," says TIHAN Executive Director Scott Blades.
"Every year we have a theme. We had a Hollywood Night where everyone got dressed up and there were paparazzi. We had a Cinco de Mayo party and last year we had a beach party. This year, our theme is Hearts That Care: An Evening in Red. Red is the traditional color of AIDS awareness (along with) love, support and compassion."
The event will offer plenty of opportunities to soak in the red vibe. There will be red in the ballroom, drag queens wearing red sparkles and red props in the photo booth. You can get your photo taken with a friend or one of the festive drag queens. "We will have the best, boldest and brightest drag queens in town," says Blades.
Entertainment will be provided by Bold as Love and the Reveille Men's Chorus. Party goers can enjoy hors d'oeuvres, a no-host cantina and live and silent auctions. The emcee for the event is KVOA Channel 4 news reporter Lupita Murillo.
Blades says there are more than 500 items available in their auctions, ranging from $20 items to a $2500 item. You can bid on gift certificates at local restaurants, airline tickets, a trip to Santa Fe, hotel stays, a vacation in Nantucket and many more items. Linda Ronstadt has donated items from her Tucson home and signed copies of her memoir. And someone can win $1,000 in a raffle.
"The theme of Hearts That Care honors all of the people, businesses and groups who do so much to support awareness and those living with the disease," says Blades.
Ed is especially grateful for the support TIHAN has given him. "They have brought me closer to my peers who also have this disease. And they allow me to volunteer and give me a stage from which to give my message to the world.
"When we join together, we have strength. We can come out of the shadows and take control. ... We deserve to be accepted just like anyone else. To my peers with HIV, my message is 'Don't let AIDS rule you.'"