PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – For the past two decades, the AIDS Fund in Philadelphia has been raising money for AIDS and HIV services by hosting an unusual and fabulous event.
GayBINGO! celebrated 20 years Saturday night at the Gershman Y in Center City.
“Most organizations would be thrilled to get 500-700 people at an event once a year,” says AIDS Fund executive director Robb Reichard. “We do it once a month.”
He says GayBINGO! is a fun event…
“We laugh and it gets a little raucous at times.”
…with a serious goal in mind:
“While we’ve been here for 20 years we will keep playing Gay Bingo until this crisis is over.”
Larry Felzer has been a volunteer with GayBINGO! from the beginning.
“It’s hard to believe that an event that was conceived as a one time thing has been happening monthly for 20 years,” he tells KYW Newsradio.
He says AIDS was much scarier in the 90’s:
“We saw a lot more people dying quickly. There weren’t medications 20 years ago that were extending people’s lives like we have today.”
While much progress has been made over the years, Reichard says they must continue the effort.
“Only 30-percent of people in this country who are HIV positive are on treatment to the point where their virus is suppressed. We have a long way to go.”
Reichard’s goal is no new cases of HIV. On top of that, Cole Glaser — who pulls the numbers — says this event shows acceptance of gay and LGBT people:
“A lot of the people that come to GayBINGO! are heterosexual and cisgendered, and I think the fact they come out here and support the event is pretty amazing.”
When asked to raise their hands, the majority of people at Saturday’s 20th anniversary identified themselves as straight.