A concert featuring Los Angeles-based gay pop singers Jason and deMarco have been given the go ahead by the Media Development Authority of Singapore (MDA).
At the time, MDA said in a statement: "Based on the duo's performance in the United States and information from the website, the couple have used their musical performances and their own example as a gay couple to promote a gay lifestyle" and would be "against the public interest."
Explaining its decision to allow the concert this time, MDA's deputy director for arts and licensing (Media Content Division), Amy Tsang said in a statement to Fridae that the concert to be held in 2005 "was disallowed because the concert was open to general members of the public."
She added that the concert organiser, Safehaven, has "given the assurance to MDA that the concert is targeted at the high risk groups" and the "aim of the concert is AIDS education and HIV prevention." The concert is also restricted to audiences 18 and over.
When Fridae enquired on Wednesday about its definition of "high risk groups" and whether there are any other restrictions pertaining to the marketing and performance itself, MDA said in an email on Friday that it was unable to elaborate until "the answers have been cleared with our management."
When asked why they had decided to try again given that the duo were not allowed to perform here two year ago, co-organiser Peter Goh told Fridae, "We want to give ourselves as well as the authorities another chance to prove that together we can create more space to move the community towards healthy living."
Real-life partners Jason Warner and deMarco DeCiccio, who met in 2001, released their first album together 2002 and have since released another four albums and a single. As reported on the duo's web site, a full-length feature documentary film entitled We're All Angels about the lives of the two high-profile Christian pop stars against a backdrop of anti-gay Christian fundamentalists premiered at NewFest 2007 and is circulating the independent film circuit.
While the pair is Christian, organisers say the concert will not feature any Christian song or message. The focus will instead be on reaching out to the gay community.
Goh said: "Jason and deMarco are openly gay and we hope the HIV message will go so much further coming from people who are gay themselves. The fact that they are a gay duo makes them really unique. There are many openly gay artistes around, but you don't see many gay duos who partner in life as well as in their music careers."
The concert will also raise funds for the Action for AIDS (AFA) Medical Subsidy Fund that provides subsidies to HIV+ patients in accessing their HAART (Highly Active Anti-Retroviral Therapy).
Organisers say the Hope concert "represents a self-help initiative by the gay community in Singapore to address the escalating HIV infection rates amongst gay men. The organisers hope to send a clear message to the gay community of the seriousness of the HIV epidemic, and that gay people can and must take the lead in helping their own community."
According to AFA, 26 per cent of the 357 new cases of HIV infection reported in Singapore last year were attributed to MSM (men who have sex with men), of which gay men constitute a large proportion. The group however believes that the infection cases are under reported and estimates that the infection rate of all new cases could in fact be closer to 60 per cent.
"It is critical that gay men in Singapore realise that safe sex is not an option. It is totally non-negotiable if we do not want the HIV epidemic to devastate the community as it did in the US in the late 60s/70s. If we do not intensify our prevention work today, we certainly will find ourselves in the same situation sooner than we think," AFA's director fundraising & programme Paul Toh was quoted as saying.
Dr Balaji Sadasivan, Senior Minister of State for Information, Communications and the Arts, and Foreign Affairs, will be the Guest of Honour for the concert in his capacity as Chairman of the Inter-Ministerial Committee on HIV/AIDS. The concert will also feature prominent local celebrities Hossan Leong, Selena Tan and Chua Enlai as the MC.
The HOPE Concert (Rated R18) will be held at Kreta Ayer People's Theatre at 7.30pm on Dec 13, 2007. Tickets are available online on Fridae.com at US$20 or US$47 (including cocktail reception) or at $28/ S$68 from AFA office (21 Norris Road). Proceeds from ticket sales and goodwill donations, after cost-recovery, will be contributed to Action for AIDS Medical Subsidy Fund that provides subsidies to HIV+ patients in accessing their HAART (Highly Active Anti-Retroviral Therapy).
Correction: AFA's director fundraising & programme Paul Toh meant to have said the 80s and early 90s (not the late 60s/70s) when referring to the devastation of the gay community caused by AIDS. We regret the error and thank the reader for pointing it out.