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White Party longtime HIV/AIDS fundraiser in Miami 'resets' itself to reach younger revelers

BY STEVE ROTHAUS, srothaus@MiamiHerald.com

White Party, one of the nation’s first HIV/AIDS fundraisers, is attempting to “reset” itself and attract young men and women who weren’t born when the health crisis began more than three decades ago.

“The theme of the White Party this year is reset,” says Joe DePiro, marketing and public relations manager for Care Resource, the agency that benefits from the weeklong circuit event — now in its 28th year.

“It has less to do with the White Party being reset, but more about trends in HIV and AIDS,” DePiro says. “This disease is going through a paradigm shift. Once it was a white gay male demographic; now its more diverse. Fifty percent of new infections are under the age of 25 years old. Forty-nine percent of new infections are among African Americans, and 25 percent of new infections are women. if that doesn’t warrant a reset, nothing does.”

More than 10,000 revelers from around the world are expected at White Party Week events, DePiro says — including Cirque Blanc for women Saturday night at Nikki Beach Club and Muscle Beach Party on Sunday, both on Ocean Drive

For decades, White Party Week centered around the big party traditionally held at Vizcaya Museum and Gardens. Two years ago, Miami-Dade County, which owns Vizcaya, hiked the rental fee and White Party moved to Seaquarium.

On Saturday, the 2012 event will be at SOHO Studios in Miami’s Wynwood neighborhood.

“The Wynwood walls in that area have become a creative symbol for Miami. If you drive through that neighborhood on any given Sunday, you see tons of photographers from all over the world photographing the street,” DePiro says.

Care Resource hopes some of Wynwood’s trendy appeal rubs off on the main White Party event, attracting younger people.

“We’re trying to move with the times. White Party before was a kind of grand, pristine, white cocktail affair among a small circle of gay friends reacting to the AIDS crisis,” DePiro says. “It represents an acknowledgment of the past, but also our desire to move forward in our thinking with new ideas with an emphasis on now and the future.”

This year, White Party has introduced a reduced student admission, for young people in school who are over age 21. (The hitch for those who drink: unlimited nonalcoholic beverages only at the $30 student rate.)

Entertainment this year includes ‘90s singer Crystal Waters “to appeal to the older gay male demographic, who come to circuit parties expecting a diva appearance,” DePiro said. DJ Danny Verde is popular with the “younger crowd,” he added.

HIV/AIDS activist Trey Jones of Empower U’s Miami Men’s Mpowerment Project, said he’s looking forward to volunteering at this year’s event.

“White Party represents for people in the community a chance to get together and not only have fun, but spread the awareness of HIV — and also to party for a cause,” said Jones, 24. “I’ve been to one White Party before. It was a really great experience. I had a lot of fun and met really great people.”

IF YOU GO

White Party begins 10 p.m. Saturday at SOHO Studios, 2136 NW First Ave. in Miami’s Wynwood neighborhood. The party will be preceded by a fashion show at 9 p.m. Tickets are $30 for students 21 and up (includes fashion show and nonalcoholic beverages), $99 general admission (including alcoholic and nonalcoholic drinks) and $150 VIP (with drinks, fashion show and private areas). Go to whiteparty.org for event details, tickets and full schedule.

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This HIV AIDS has been a massive problem worldwide. It is good to note that there is a growing number of people, clubs and institutions who share their concerns to eradicate HIV AIDS. Good luck to this White Party. God Bless!

I encourage everybody to help raise funds for AIDS victims. Be a blessing to others!

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