Glittering Oscar night for a good cause 

“Avatar” may slay the competition in this year’s Oscar battle, but for Academy of Friends, another crusade keeps it busy: combating HIV and AIDS.

That mission isn’t lost on Deb Denison, a volunteer for AOF, The City’s nonprofit which assists men, women and children affected by HIV/AIDS. Her work isn’t lost on AOF either.

This year, Denison is the recipient of the organization’s Jay Luque Award for Outstanding Volunteerism, one of several honoring locals making a difference.

“I was in shock,” Denison says of hearing the news. “I average three days a week [at AOF] and do what needs to be done — filing, data input, answering phones. I’ve only been volunteering for a year.”

True — but Denison has been attending AOF’s dazzling annual Oscar gala for about 20 more.

This year’s revelry, “Behind the Seams: A Salute to Fashion in Film,” brightens up Fort Mason on March 7. Expect a backstage look at how film fashion has influenced culture, performances from local entertainers and cuisine and Champagne from local culinary titans.

At the heart of the issue, though, is, that people are attending to generate funds that will go to 11 HIV/AIDS-related agencies on AOF’s recipient list this year: AIDS Legal Referral Panel, Asian & Pacific Islander Wellness Center, Face to Face, Huckleberry Youth Programs, Maitri, Project Inform, San Francisco LGBT Community Center, Positive Resource Center, Shanti, Tenderloin Health and UCSF’s Women’s HIV Program.

The event also marks AOF’s 30th anniversary. In three decades, it has distributed nearly $8 million to more than 71 organizations.

Yet Executive Director Mike Horak says that turning 30 may not be such a “milestone.”

“You’re looking at 30 years of HIV and AIDS,” he says. “While great advances have been made in medical care and treatment, and keeping people alive much longer — allowing them to live full, robust lives — it’s not really a particularly happy milestone.

“I would actually look forward to the day Academy of Friends is no longer needed and we can very happily close the door for our services,” he adds. “That would really be a milestone and something to celebrate.”

Academy of Friends Gala

Where: Festival Pavilion, Fort Mason, Marina Boulevard and Buchanan Street, San Francisco
When: 5 p.m. March 7
Tickets: $250 to $300

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Staff Report

Staff Report

A daily newspaper covering San Francisco, San Mateo County and serving Alameda, Marin and Santa Clara counties.
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